Last week we commemorated the last Sunday of the church calendar. We celebrated The Reign of Christ Sunday along with thanksgiving. This Sunday restarts the church year. As a point of reference, the church year begins at Advent which begins four Sundays before Christmas. You may or may not know that the church calendar is based on the life of Jesus. This is most noticeable during Advent, Christmas, Lent, and Easter. There are six seasons to the church calendar. Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, and Pentecost. Advent and Lent are similar in that they are both seasons of preparation for a grand celebration. Advent culminates with Christmas and Lent prepares us for Easter. The seasons following Christmas and Easter teach us how to live more like Jesus.
As I’ve already mentioned Advent is a season of preparation for Christmas. This is why we spend time before Christmas preparing for the coming of Jesus. Not only are we preparing our hearts to celebrate the first coming, when he came to Bethlehem and was placed in a manger…but Advent has a dual purpose – we need to prepare are hearts for Jesus’ Second Advent. We are promised in God’s Word that Jesus is coming again. This time he is not coming as a baby, but as Lord over all the earth. The traditional four themes of Advent are Hope, Peace, Joy and Love. For each one of these themes, we light a candle. The Advent Candles are arranged in a circle surrounded by the Christ Candle. They can either be purple or blue. In the church calendar, purple is typically a color of penitence, meaning it is a time when we look inward and ask God to cleanse us from our sins. This is why Lent tends to be a serious time. Advent on the other hand tends to be more joyful as we prepare our hearts for the coming Christ child. Blue speaks of the royalty of the coming King. So, we choose blue – it is simply a matter of preference.
As you look around the sanctuary this morning, you will notice that there is very little in the way of decorations this morning. This is on purpose. The first Sunday of Advent reminds us of the desperation of the Jewish people. They were waiting for a king that had been promised to them. When would he come? How would he come? Would he be a political Messiah? A financial Messiah? A spiritual Messiah? They had been waiting and God had been silent for over four hundred years. They were in despair…Where was their hope?
While we were living in Indiana, Rebecca and Anna were involved in a children’s musical called Angels Aware. This musical told the story of Jesus coming to earth from the point of heaven and the angels. Included in the delegation of angels were to who had already lived on this earth – Moses and Isaiah, representing the law and the prophets. In this musical Moses was depicted as grumpy and a not very happy. Isaiah on the other hand was optimistic. Moses comments that Isaiah seems to find the silver lining behind every cloud and calls him an optimist. Isaiah replies, “I can be optimistic, because I have something to be optimistic about.” Isaiah had a hope for the Jewish people. This morning we can have the same hope that Isaiah had.
For the next four weeks, we will be taking a look at Isaiah 9:6-7.
6 For a child is born to us, a son is given to us.
The government will rest on his shoulders.
And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
7 His government and its peace will never end.
He will rule with fairness and justice from the throne of his ancestor David for all eternity.
The passionate commitment of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies will make this happen!
A part of Christmas involves the giving of gifts. We exchange gifts mostly because of our love for each other. Think about what the average person will spend on Christmas gifts this year. Another fact of the gift-giving tradition must come from the original Christmas scene when we learn of the Magi bringing gifts to King Jesus – gold, frankincense and myrrh. Believe it or not, Santa Claus did not create the first Christmas list. God did. It involves four gifts for you and me and all who will receive them. God’s Christmas list for all is found in this passage in Isaiah. Let’s look at God’s first perfect gift made just for you: Jesus is the Wonderful Counselor.
How does the dictionary define wonderful? 1 : exciting wonder : marvelous , astonishing 2 : unusually good : admirable. Isaiah describes this coming baby as wonderful. Jesus is wonderful – Jesus is marvelous – Jesus is astonishing – Jesus is unusually good – Jesus is admirable. Why?
God sent his Son to earth. Why did he do that? Paul writes in Ephesians 1:
3 All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ. 4 Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. 5 God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. 6 So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son. 7 He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins. 8 He has showered his kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding.
9 God has now revealed to us his mysterious plan regarding Christ, a plan to fulfill his own good pleasure. 10 And this is the plan: At the right time he will bring everything together under the authority of Christ—everything in heaven and on earth.
Through Jesus we can really begin to see God. Jesus is life, love, forgiveness, salvation, hope, dependability, grace, mercy, truth, and strength. We are reminded in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians that Jesus, who was in essence God, gave up those rights and came to earth as a human and was obedient to his father even to the point of death. That is a wonder-inspiring thought. We are reminded in John 3:16, that God loved the world so much that He gave His only Son Jesus so that whoever believed would not perish but have eternal life. That Jesus loves us like that and desires to know us should fill us with wonder. Not only that but Jesus desires to be our friend – Jesus is the friend of sinners – that is truly wonderful. As if all that weren’t wonderful enough, Jesus also desires to help us. It doesn’t matter what our past is like. It doesn’t matter what we’ve done – Jesus wants to help us and he wants to help us live the life that is pleasing to Him. That is truly wonderful. Jesus is wonderful.
But Isaiah also calls Jesus a counselor. Since we went to the dictionary for the word wonderful, let’s go again for the word counselor: 1: a person who gives advice 2: lawyer; specifically one that gives advice in law and manages cases for clients in court or an attorney at law 3: one who has supervisory duties at a summer camp. Let’s look at these. Jesus loves us and desires for us to live like Him. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, Jesus counsels us in how to live that life. The Holy Spirit gives us advice that we either follow or don’t. When we don’t follow the counselor’s advice, many times we get ourselves into trouble. Interestingly enough, Jesus told his disciples that he would be sending them a counselor, the Holy Spirit, to lead and guide them in their lives.
We also see that Jesus can be our legal counselor. Jesus desires for us to turn our lives over to Him and to let Him manage our lives. He will do things on our behalf just like an attorney does. He will speak on our behalf and he gives us advice on following God’s law, which we find in God’s Word, the Bible.
Believe it or not, Jesus can also be like our camp counselor, giving us advice, supervising us and keeping us out of trouble. One of the things about Jesus being our counselor is that He has no hidden agenda – there is no ulterior motive – Jesus simply desires to listen to us. He is the best listener that ever existed. Jesus does not second guess us and yet he is there to pick us up when we make the wrong choice
In the Old Testament, the word “counselor” means “to lead with a plan.” Jesus stands ready to lead your life – if you are ready to follow Him. In John 14:6 Jesus says, ” 6 Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me. Jesus has always promised to be with us. What other counselor can do that? Jesus, being God Himself, knows us better than we know ourselves. He knows precisely what we need – even before we ask.
There is a gift with your name on it this Christmas and every day of every year. It is yours for the taking. The “Wonderful Counselor” has come for you. He may only seem like an insignificant baby, but He is God in the flesh. Let Him hold you. Allow Him to hold all things together in your life. Spend time with Him. He is listening. Tell Him everything – your praises; dreams; hopes; ambitions; worries; tragedies; disappointments. Ask Him to lead your life with His plans.
Let the Wonderful Counselor come to you this Advent. His amazing help and plan are God’s gift to you. He will never break, wear out or go out of style.