The Joy of Christmas

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Darkness looms over the people. The people of Judah crave the pleasures of sin rather than the pleasures of God. As a result, storm clouds of judgment approach. 

This is the sobering setting of the book of Isaiah as he warns of the impending Assyrian invasion.

And yet, if you keep reading, you find out that God doesn’t leave his people in darkness. He promises a coming Light. In Isaiah 9, we see a glimmer of hope amidst the news of invasion and judgment. Yes, the people will know the darkness of divine judgment, but the tears of mourning won’t last forever. They will be replaced by shouts of rejoicing. The kingdom that would experience death and exile would come to know increase and joy.

The hope of Judah—who is also the hope of the nations—is the Promised Child of Isaiah 9:6–7. While Jerusalem will stand in ruins from the Assyrian invasion, the Messiah will usher in a renewed kingdom marked by peace. Israel’s kings were often marked by wickedness, but this King will reign in justice and righteousness. The people of Israel and Judah rose and fell with the rise and fall of her kings, but the messianic King’s rule will know no end. He is God come to earth to bring his people back to him. 

But here’s what’s even more astounding: this joyous news of deliverance isn’t just for the tribes of Israel. It’s not just for Judah. This promised Messiah—Immanuel, God with us—is establishing a kingdom that stretches across the nations, not through military might but through an invitation of citizenship for all who would submit to this gracious and all-mighty rule. That’s why Isaiah 56:7 promises that the Lord’s house “shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.”

Each one of us has felt this looming darkness. For most of you reading this article, the darkness you’ve experienced isn’t the prospect of foreign invaders. Instead, it’s the darkness your own sin brings. Every person of every generation knows the reality of standing guilty before a holy God. If nothing else, this year has provided a powerful example that we live in a sinful world—a world marred by political turmoil, natural disasters, and death.

But this week we celebrate the fulfillment of Isaiah 9. We celebrate the birth of Immanuel. As we gather with family or mourn the fact that we cannot gather with family, we remember that God has not left us in darkness. Sin, sickness, and death do not have the final word. Instead, the Father has engulfed us in the brilliant, life-giving light of his glorious Son.

Reflecting on the coming of Christ must drive us to the nations. There are many around the world who remain under the gloom of spiritual darkness. They look to false gods for hope and security. But we know the gospel; we know the Son has come to redeem his people. Christ lived and died. He rose and ascended. He sent his Spirit. So now we go to the nations. 

This is the joy of Christmas. This is the good news that’s worth telling on the mountain, so that the nations might stream there and find enduring peach and everlasting joy (Isaiah 2). 

Cody Cunningham

Cody Cunningham is a Training Facilitator for Reaching and Teaching and serves as one of the pastors of Immanuel Community Church in New Orleans, Louisiana. He graduated from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in May 2016 (M.Div.) and is pursuing a Ph.D. in Historical Theology from Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Cody is married to Margaret and has three kids (Josiah, Charlotte, and Levi).

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