At our Christmas Eve service, we meditated upon Isaiah’s prophetic announcement: “For unto us a child is born; to us a Son is given” (Isaiah 9:6). I marvel at this announcement, because the Son who is given is identified in the same verse as “mighty God” (Isaiah 9:7). The Son who is given, is the eternal Son, the Only Begotten from the Father. I marvel and rejoice at this announcement, because the Son is given to us, to you and to me. In the gift of the Son to us, we know the love of God for us: “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him” (1 John 4:9).
We celebrate Christmas over a period of twelve days, which spans the end of one year and the beginning of another. As we reflect on the year that is past and look to the new year ahead, we remember and we celebrate the gift of God’s Son to us. We remember and we celebrate God’s love for us. We remember and we celebrate the coming of Immanuel, “God with us.” As we look back on this year and reflect upon the various joys and successes, and disappointments and failures, we remember and we rejoice that God is with us and God is for us. As we look ahead to the new year, some of us do so with anticipation and optimism, and others with fears and uncertainty. Whatever our present lot at the end of this year, our Lord Jesus Christ “is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). He remains God with us and God for us.
John Newton’s hymn “Amazing Grace” was originally entitled “Faith’s Review and Expectation.” At the beginning of this new year, the words of his hymn articulate our own faith’s review and expectation:
Through many dangers, toils, and snares,
I have already come;
’Tis grace has brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.
The Lord has promised good to me,
His word my hope secures:
He will my shield and portion be,
As long as life endures.
Whatever hopes and fears we may have for this new year, let’s fix our eyes on Christ, who is God with us and God for us. Let’s not only abide in his love and faithfulness, let’s abound in his love and faithfulness. Let’s press on to know and love the Lord (Hosea 6:3) and “let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works” (Hebrews 10:24).
For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and of peace
there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this. (Isaiah 9:6-7)