Wonderful - Advent Midweek 1
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Delivered By
Rev. Nathaniel Schwartz
Delivered On
December 4, 2013
Central Passage
Isaiah 9:6

ADVENT MIDWEEK 1          DECEMBER 4, 2013          ISAIAH 9:6

Do you know what the most popular names for a baby are in 2013?  Well, according to one website, the three most popular names for a boy are “Liam, Noah, and Ethan.”  And for a girl – “Emma, Olivia, and Sophia.”

So why do people choose a “certain or particular name” for their child?  Is it because of what the name means?  Is it because of how the name sounds?  Or do we seek unique or different names for our children these days so we can distinguish them from one another when we are yelling at a group?

It seems to me that names don’t hold as much meaning these days as they once did.  You see, in times past children were named based on actual qualities they possessed or were to possess (sometimes prophetically from the Lord and sometimes based on the circumstances surrounding their birth).

Well, all this talk about names is a great way to introduce our Advent Series this year.  You see, in the next few weeks, we will be examine the names prophetically ascribed to Jesus in Isaiah 9:6-7.  And tonight, in particular, we focus on these words, “His name will be called Wonderful.”

 Now to appreciate what it means that Jesus is called "Wonderful," we must understand two important facets of the term. First, a wonder is, by definition, a miracle. If something is full of wonder, it is beyond human ability; it is something supernatural, miraculous. If something is wonderful, it is beyond what we are able to do. Therefore, the Lord is Wonderful because He, the Son of God, accomplishing miracles that only He can do.

Second: If something is full of wonder, it is beyond human reasoning or comprehension-it may well be so wonderful and godly that we cannot sense it, see it, or understand it, but can only trust that it is true. So, something is wonderful because it is beyond what we are able to comprehend.  It is too wonderful for words.

Behold, then, the wonder of Isaiah 9:6, for it blares out at you with the words, "And the government will be upon His shoulders." This makes our Savior a King unlike any other.

My friends, a king rules by keeping all things under his feet. He holds the authority and then directs others to do the labor. He commands his citizens to keep the laws, while he may consider himself above the law. He commands his soldiers to keep the country safe, even if they must pay for it with their own lives. That is the duty of the people, to die for the life of the king. The king keeps all things under His feet.

But not this King!  Not the Coming Messiah!  For Isaiah declares that  “the government will be upon His shoulders.” He will be the One who makes the payment for us. He will be the One who keeps God's Laws for us because we could not. He will be the One who keeps us safe by laying down His life for us. This King dies for His citizens. He will do so because it must be this way. We cannot conquer sin, death and the devil; if we marched out against it as one united front, we would still fail.

But our King can defeat these foes. So rather than keep Himself above the fray and our problems beneath Him, He puts our sin upon His shoulders and bears it to the cross. He lifts us out of the mire of our sin and bears us along as a shepherd bears an injured sheep. This is why the King is Wonderful: He carries His kingdom upon His shoulders for the good of His people.

We see Him doing this as a new phase of His plan for our redemption is set in motion in our Gospel lesson for tonight, Luke 1:26-38. This story is wonderful in both ways: A great miracle takes place in this text, but one so wonderful that it lies not just beyond our ability, but beyond our sight and understanding.

Behold the wonderful miracle! Gabriel announces the Word of God to Mary that she will be the mother of Jesus, the Savior; and by the Word the angel proclaims, Jesus is conceived in Mary by the Holy Ghost. The miracles here are so astounding that we easily dismiss them because we do not understand them. A virgin has conceived, and that is a miracle in itself; but far more miraculous is the Baby in her womb. That Child, no more than a few microscopic cells at the moment, is the Son of God. The One just begun in Mary is Mary's Creator from eternity; and though He will die, He will reign forever and ever.

And already it is true: The tiny, just-forming Son in Mary's womb bears the government upon His strong shoulders.

But how? How can this be? It is far too wonderful-it is far too beyond natural happenings! How can this be? The angel tells us: "With God nothing will be impossible."

Well, if it is hard to believe that something Wonderful is happening when Gabriel appears to Mary, it is even more so to see any wonder at Calvary. The wondrous miracle on that hill is hidden beneath layer upon layer of shame and humiliation. To all appearances, the One on the cross is a beaten, bloodied criminal, one more casualty to the brutality of Roman rule. There is no triumph or glory to be seen, just a horrible death to behold.

But the One on the cross is called Wonderful, and His death has a miraculous purpose beyond our ken. As He bears the government upon His shoulders, He bears our sin upon Himself and dies with it there. He redeems the world that day, for He pays the price for sin-a wonder far beyond our ability to do. He conquers death, too, for the grave cannot hold Him in the ground. Thus the devil is likewise defeated and stripped of his weapons. This is the wonder of Calvary, for that terrible day is the day of victory over sin and death. We cannot see it, and our rational minds want to dismiss it as the untimely death of a virtuous teacher. But by faith we know: The crucifixion is full of wonder. The Wonderful One redeems us there, despite all appearances.

Therefore, dear friends, you have a wonderful life, because the One called Wonderful has added you to His kingdom. He has made you a part of His wonderful kingdom by His work in Holy Baptism; there He has joined you to His death and borne you through His tomb on His shoulders. He speaks to you His Word-the same powerful Word that created the heavens and the earth, that healed the sick and raised the dead; and He says to you with His Word, "I forgive you all of your sins." This King who rules by serving His servants invites you to His table and feeds you His Supper, to strengthen and preserve you in the one true faith unto life everlasting. This is your Savior, and this is what He does for you.

May this bring us comfort, peace, and hope during Advent, and throughout the New Church year!  Amen and Amen.