“For unto you a child is born, unto us a Son is given…”
Christmas is a season that is steeped in anticipation: the anticipation of seeing loved ones, the anticipation of giving and receiving gifts and, most importantly, the anticipation of celebrating the birth of the Messiah. However, the anticipation of a coming savior is one that has long preceded the season of Advent as we know it. The tribe of Judah, who Isaiah was addressing in chapter nine, were also anticipating the coming of the Messiah but in a way we can scarcely understand. Judah at the time was torn between warring nations, Israel and Syria to the immediate North and the reigning Assyrian empire which encompassed all three nations. The king of Judah, Ahaz, was afraid to challenge the mighty Assyrian empire and so he sent word to the king of Assyria, warning him of the coming uprising in hopes of receiving protection from the retribution of Israel and Syria. This was a bleak time for Judah, whose dread was only compounded by the repeated prophesies given by Isaiah foretelling the coming destruction and suffering of God’s people. However, amongst all the turmoil, Isaiah offers the prophecy we see in chapter nine verse six: “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, and the government shall be upon his shoulders and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” These words filled the people of Judah with hope and anticipation. They now know that despite their present suffering God will be sending a blessed child, who will redeem His people and deliver them from suffering and exile.
While the Jews of ancient Judah were expecting a mighty warrior and commanding ruler to come as their Messiah, certainly not a helpless child, there remains much we can glean from their anticipation of His coming. The people of Judah felt lost and abandoned in their present circumstances. They were afraid of what the future would hold for them and whether God would ultimately redeem and restore them as He promised He would. Correspondingly, the time in which we currently live is uncertain and adverse to say the least. However, in uncertain times anticipation can play a powerful role in our lives, just as it did in the lives of the Judeans. Anticipation calls us forward, to things yet unseen. It calls us to depart, even if it be momentarily, from our present circumstances and live in a way that is characterized by a blissful expectation of what is to come. This is one of the most remarkable beauties of the Advent season: taking the standing opportunity to pause and look upon Jesus with anticipation, excitement, and joy. While we may not know precisely what the future holds, we can, as the people of Judah once did, turn to the words of Isaiah and be filled with blessed anticipation for the coming of our savior in this season of Advent.