Christmas Sunday: A Passage To Remember
As most people are putting away "Christmas-y" things, and the stores stop blaring "Here Comes Santa Claus," Catholics are just getting started.
The entire Christmas Cycle is a crescendo of Christ's manifesting Himself as God and King -- to the shepherds, to the Magi, at His Baptism, to Simeon and the prophetess, Anna (Luke 2). The days from the Feast of the Nativity to the Epiphany are known as "The Twelve Days of Christmas," with Christmas itself being the first day, and Twelfth night -- 5 January -- being the last of the twelve days. Christmastide liturgically ends on 13 January, the Octave of the Epiphany and the Baptism of Christ. But Christmas doesn't end spiritually, the celebration of the events of Christ's life as a child don't end, and the great Christmas Cycle doesn't end -- until Candlemas on 2 February and the beginning of the Season of Septuagesima.
In this way, just as From Ash Wednesday on, we commemorate Christ in the desert for forty days, and just as after Easter we celebrate for forty days until the Ascension, after Christmas we celebrate the Child Jesus for forty days -- all through the season of Time After Epiphany -- until Candlemas.
It can be easy to loose that spirit of Christmas before Candlemas. Stores are not playing Christmas music anymore, the world around us have taken down all the decorations that remind of this special holiday, and Hallmark is no longer showing those somewhat cheesy Christmas movies that pull you in in spite yourself.
I have found that one of the ways to keep Christmas fresh in your mind is to memorize and recite Luke 2 together. This can plant into your brains the beauty of the coming of Jesus as our Savior. Don’t forget Old Testament passages that point to the arrival of Christ too. One of those Old Testament readings is perhaps my favorite Christmas verse of all—Isaiah 9:6.
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.
Why do I love this passage so much? Because in these four names of Jesus, you find the complete content of the Christmas story.
1. Wonderful Counselor
It is one of the functional contradictions of sin. Sin reduces us all to fools, yet at the very same time, it also convinces us that we are smarter than God. As a result, we minimize the danger of what God calls dangerous, we question the need for the boundaries that God has set for us, and, in the face of our own sin, we argue that it’s not so bad after all. Every day in some situation or relationship, we are tempted to think we are wiser than God. Without the rescue of Christ’s wonderful counsel and wisdom, we are all fools heading for danger we simply don’t see.
2. Mighty God
Sin doesn’t just reduce us to fools; it also renders us unable. So Jesus came to do by divine power what we could not do for ourselves. Sin causes us all to be unable to be what God designed us to be and do what God created us to do. So Jesus would unleash his power to defeat sin and death and then empower us to desire and do what we would not be able to do without his power working in and through us.
3. Everlasting Father
Jesus, by his life, death, and resurrection, welcomes us into his family once again. He is the door by which we have access to God. He lavishes his fatherly love, and we are blessed with all the rights and privileges of being his children. No longer separated, lost, alienated, and alone, we live forever as the sons and daughters of the King of kings and the Lord of lords.
4. Prince of Peace
Christ produced what you and I desperately need but have no power to deliver—vertical and horizontal peace. Sin alienates us from God and one another, making us enemies with God and casting us into constant conflict with other people. We are naturally better fighters than lovers. But God had a solution, a gift we could never achieve, earn, or deserve. Through the work of the Prince of Peace, we are invited to live in a worshipful community with God and a loving community with others.
So I encourage you to memorize and recite Isaiah 9:6 during this Christmas season, perhaps more than any other passage. There is no more stirring, encouraging prophecy of the birth of Jesus than this.
Under the careful direction of the Holy Ghost, Isaiah purposefully chose these four names to communicate how, specifically, the Messiah Son is what you and I desperately need.