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“A Christmas Letter from Isaiah”
Isaiah 9:6


Pastor Kevin Vogts
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Dakota Dunes, South Dakota
Third Sunday in Advent—December 12, 2010

Have you sent out your Christmas cards yet?  That’s something Terry and I haven’t quite gotten around to.  Every year the Post Office nags us to mail early, and we should have had them in the mail already weeks ago.

The people at the Post Office would really love a customer like the prophet Isaiah.  Because Isaiah certainly sent out his Christmas greetings plenty early—about 700 years early, as a matter of fact.  For, in our text, written about 700 B.C., Isaiah announces in advance the Good News of Christmas: “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.”

If Isaiah were to include one of those newsy Christmas letters with this Christmas greeting, it would go something like this:

Well, things have been a little crazy around here lately.  You probably know that when King Solomon died a couple of centuries ago, our Hebrew people’s promised land was split in two, into the Northern and Southern Kingdoms.  You may have heard the sad news that recently the Assyrians conquered and eventually destroyed the Northern Kingdom of Israel.  If only they would have listened to the warnings of my brother prophets, Hosea, Amos, and Micah.  If only they would have relied on Lord and trusted in his promises. 

But, what really makes me sad, is that in my own Southern Kingdom of Judah, the kings, the priests, and the people didn’t learn a lesson from what happened to our fellow Hebrews up in Israel.  Instead of turning to the Lord for help and relying on him and his promises, just like Israel we think we’ll be saved from destruction by making concessions, by giving in and going along with the heathen world.  We’re even making military alliances with some of our enemies, because we think they’re the only ones powerful enough to save us and protect us.  I keep telling anyone who will listen that with “friends” like the Assyrians or Babylonians we sure don’t need enemies.  Because someday, they’ll turn on us and take over our country themselves. 

God has sent me to warn all his people—including you—that giving in and going along with the wicked world will only lead to your destruction.  “Alas, a sinful nation!  A people loaded with guilt!  They have forsaken the Lord; they have provoked to anger The Holy One of Israel.  But sinners will be destroyed, and those who forsake the Lord will perish!”  Take this warning to heart, and repent of your sins!

But it’s not all doom and gloom around here.  I also have some wonderful Good News for you.  God has revealed to me some amazing things that are going to happen sometime in the future.  You’ve probably heard that already long ago God promised to send a Savior, what we Hebrews call the “Messiah.”  God has now revealed to me many details, exactly whom the Messiah will be and what he will do—not only for the Hebrew people, but for the whole world.

He will be miraculously conceived and born of a Virgin: “The Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the Virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”  That last part, the title “Immanuel,” means that the Messiah will actually be “God with us.”

And the really marvelous Good News is why God himself is coming down to earth.  It is for us and our salvation: “Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows.  We observed him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted.  He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.  We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”

You see, the Messiah suffers for you all the punishment your sins deserve, and on his account God completely forgives you.  God explained it to me this way: “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red as crimson, they shall be like wool.”

Well, that’s what’s happening here in Jerusalem in about 700 B.C.  I look forward to seeing you at the big party the Messiah is throwing.  Just trust in him and you’ll be there!

I’m going to close my Christmas letter to you with the six names of the Messiah the Lord has revealed to me: “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.”

Amen.

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