Making This Christmas Count part 4
Realize Whose Birthday We're Celebrating
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
December 21, 2008

Main Verse: Isaiah 9:6 (NLT)
For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Not too long ago, I told you about when Nathaniel was born we already had a name picked out for him. We named him Nathaniel which means gift of God, which we really believe he is. Plus, there’s a Nathanael in the Bible that Jesus described as a man of complete integrity. And I would love for that to be the description for our Nathaniel, too. So we had that name all picked out and ready for him when he was born.

But not everyone does it that way. Some parents today like to wait until after their child is born before they consider names, because they want to meet their child and get to know them a bit before they decide on a name.

Shera and I had friends who had a baby and waited a couple weeks before deciding on a name. Paul was telling me recently about people he knows who waited months before settling on a name.

Sometimes people try to get cute with names. Shera and I are fans of the Amazing Race, and they just recently finished off another season. And this year, the winning team was a brother-sister team, and the sister’s name is Starr Spangler. And believe it or not, she grew up to be a Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader, and now she’s dating a guy named Dallas.

Here are a few other unusual names…

[Show images of strange names found in phonebooks]

Of course, some people aren’t even known by their real names. Instead, they have nicknames. In football, you had Refrigerator Perry and “Mean” Joe Green. In Basketball you had Wilt “The Stilt” Chamberlain, Magic Johnson and Dr. J. In Baseball, there’s Mr. October, Charlie Hustle, and The Yankee Clipper. Of course, I’m more of a hockey guy, so I’m more familiar with Dave “The Hammer” Schultz, Boom Boom Geoffrion, and The Great One. Oh, yeah, there’s also Rocket Richard, the Pocket Rocket and the Russian Rocket.

Nicknames are meant to be descriptive, and they’ve been around for a long time. Going back through history you’ll find nicknames like The Great Emancipator, Ivan the Terrible, and Gregory the Great.

Even Jesus had nicknames… terms that were used to describe Him. Some of them were even being used hundreds of years before Jesus was born. You’ve got to be pretty special to have nicknames centuries before your birth.

Well, we’re going to look at four of these nicknames this morning. Four descriptive terms that the prophet Isaiah used to refer to Jesus.

During this Advent season, we’ve been talking about how we can make this Christmas count. So far we’ve talked about giving the right kinds of gifts, learning to control the pace of our lives during this hectic season of the year, and last week we talked about investing in relationships, being generous toward those in need, and freely sharing the message of Jesus.

Today we’re talking about Making This Christmas Count by realizing whose birthday we’re celebrating and why He came. And to do that, we’re going to look at some nicknames used for Jesus 800 years before He was even born.

Because it was about that time, Isaiah made a prophecy about the coming of the long-awaited Messiah. Isaiah said, “The Messiah is coming and will be born, and his name shall be...” And the minute he said, “...and his name shall be,” everything and everyone got quiet because in that era names were a big deal. Much more so than today, names meant something. Names were often used to define a person. In fact, sometimes a person’s name would change when they got older if the original name didn’t quite “fit”. So when Isaiah said “…and His name shall be…”, everyone realized that the next words that came out of his mouth would perhaps reveal the character or the mission or the true identity of the coming Messiah.

So Isaiah proceeded to give them four names. Now, these were not the names that Jesus’ family and friends would call him. They were nicknames that would never actually be used, but would reveal His mission and identity. And I’ll give you a hint. Isaiah said, “His first name will be W. C. He shall be called...” What is it?  “Wonderful Counselor.”

Four “Names” of Jesus:

1.    Wonderful Counsellor

Isaiah 9:6 (NLT)
And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor…

We just recently had an election here in Canada, and almost had another one shortly afterward. We’re still in a minority government situation, so even with the possibility of a coalition government I wouldn’t be surprised if we did have another election within the next few months.

Well, whatever Prime Minister we have, hopefully they will surround themselves with people who can give them good counsel. Same thing in the States. Barack Obama will soon be in office there, and hopefully he will surround himself with people who can give him wise counsel.

World leaders need people who can give good counsel. But you know, everybody in this chaotic, uncertain world would do well to have a wonderful counselor at his or her side—someone who knows more than you know about a whole range of subject matters. Someone who cares for you enough to come alongside and impart that wisdom and knowledge to you lovingly. Someone who can give you guidance and direction. Someone whose counsel can keep you from making unwise choices and blowing up your life. 

Someone whose perspective is higher than yours, whose wisdom is deeper, and whose commitment to you knows no bounds. What a gift a wonderful counselor would be to each of us. Isaiah, 800 years before Christ, says, “The Messiah is coming, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor.” 

And sure enough, when Jesus was born all those centuries later, and then he started growing up, the Bible says that he matured in every field of knowledge. And when he began his teaching ministry, his crowds doubled and tripled and quadrupled. 

He offered more insightful, trustworthy, penetrating wisdom and counsel than the world had ever heard before. And often, when he would end his discourses, people would just stand there spellbound. And they would say, “Who is this man? Where did he learn this stuff? No one has ever been this wise.”

And ever since, those who have studied the teachings of Jesus have agreed that He’s in a class all his own.

And still today, even around our church and throughout our city, people sit around in small groups, and they discuss and compare notes with each other, and they shake their heads in wonderment at how Jesus has been a wonderful counselor for our lives… how he has guided us and prompted us, how he has led us… how He has counseled us.

I became a Christ-follower when I was seven years old. So I’ve been following Him for over 30 years now. And I can tell you with complete sincerity that I have absolutely no regrets for the times I have followed His counsel, even when I didn’t understand it.

In fact, the biggest regrets I have in my life are when this Wonderful Counselor gave me counsel and wisdom, and I didn’t follow it. Those are the times I regret. But whenever I followed his wonderful counsel—his promptings, his guidance for my life—it has taken me down a straight road that went to a good place.

Well, Isaiah goes on to say, “Not only is this coming Messiah going to be a wonderful counselor, he is also M. G.” Who’s that?

2.    Mighty God

Isaiah 9:6 (NLT)
And he will be called… Mighty God…

This is an interesting little twist of terms, because Isaiah said, “Oh, it’s a wonderful thing to have a loving counselor, but don’t forget, he’s more than that. He’s the sovereign, mighty, all-powerful God. He’s the Alpha and Omega, the Creator, the Sustainer of the universe.”

And sure enough, when Jesus was born and he grew up and he started his ministry, He began to demonstrate this mighty power. You know about some of the displays of power. You know that he calmed a raging storm. You know that He healed the sick and opened the eyes of the blind. You know how He helped the lame to walk. You know that He restored life to some recently-deceased people. You know how He fed a multitude with very little food.

Last week, Shera and I were at a wedding in Halifax. And at the reception, there were a bunch of ladies from the church there, including a caterer, who organized the food. And they did a great job… except for one thing. They let teenagers go at the front of the line. So they went and loaded up their plates, so by the time old folks like me got to the table, there wasn’t much food left. (I made a stop at McDonald’s on the way home.)

I’m sure those ladies who were in charge of the food would have loved it if Jesus had shown up and exercised His power to multiply the food to feed the multitude that day.

But there are lots of examples throughout the New Testament of Jesus displaying His power as the Mighty God. No one had ever seen this kind of power before, culminating with him managing to walk out of his own stone-cold tomb after three days of very limited activity in that tomb.

He proved his identity. He proved his divinity. He was the Mighty God.

And Jesus is still that very same Mighty God, and He still makes that power available to us today. How many times have we witnessed His power move in response to our prayers? How many times have people been healed of diseases, how many times have the unemployed found work, how many times have incredible obstacles been overcome because of prayer?

James 4:2 (NLT)
Yet you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it.

Now, to be clear, the Bible also teaches that there are times you do ask in faith for something, and the answer is “No.” And it’s in those times that you need to understand that God is wiser than us, He sees the big picture, and He knows what’s best even when we don’t. And there are times that the answer is “Wait.” The timing’s not right right now, so keep on praying, don’t give up, and the answer will come.

And that can be really hard. Because for some of us, after we pray for a while, we run out of steam. We run out of faith. We run out of the belief that there really is a mighty God who has unlimited power at his disposal, who can actually help us out.

Luke 18:1 (NLT)
One day Jesus told his disciples a story to show that they should always pray and never give up.

Some of us are one prayer away from God doing something supernatural. I just wonder how many of you need to ask God for something today? Some of you may be looking for a new job. Have you asked God, “God, open a door of employment, please, by your supernatural hand.” Some of you need direction for your future. Some of you need to be set free from a fear that cripples you or from tons of shame or guilt. Have you asked God to set you free by His power? Some of you need the power of God to move in your homes, in your families, in your finances, in your business relationships, in your physical health.

Can you muster the faith to say, “Yes, I’m glad the Christmas child was a Wonderful Counselor, but he’s also Mighty God, and I need Him to demonstrate that power in my life.” Pray a bold prayer.

You know, the coming of Jesus that first Christmas was a Christmas miracle. And another miracle might just happen in your life today, if you invite Him to come and display His power at the Mighty God in your situation.

Now, the next name is an interesting name. The initials are E. F.

3.    Everlasting Father

Isaiah 9:6 (NLT)
And he will be called… Everlasting Father…

Isaiah said He would be the Everlasting Father. Now that’s an interesting name, isn’t it? I mean, this baby is a Father? I mean, even when He grew up, Jesus was never a father, was He? In fact, don’t we call Him the Son, not the Father?

Well, a couple things: First of all, remember that although we often call Jesus the Son of God, He is a full member of the Trinity. He is God Himself. And He welcomes each one of us to place of hope and faith in Him and become a child of God. So in a very real sense we can call Him Father.

Colossians 2:9 (NLT)
For in Christ lives all the fullness of God in a human body.

1 John 5:1 (NLT)
Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has become a child of God.

And second, remember that Jesus did not come into existence that first Christmas. He may have been born that day, but He did not begin that day. Jesus was God in the flesh. Always had been God, always will be God.

Hebrews 13:8 (NLT)
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

And Jesus Himself says in Revelation 22…

Revelation 22:13 (NLT)
“I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.”

Those are both ways to say that Jesus is God. Always has been, always will be. He had no beginning and He’ll have no ending. He’s everlasting. He’s the Everlasting God.

But He’s more than that; He’s the Everlasting Father.

Now, my Dad is still alive. In fact, he’s in his mid-70s and still driving a truck. His typical route takes him from Fredericton down to New York then up through Detroit and Ontario and then back to the Maritimes. And he usually drops in over here two or three times a month. So he’ll call and we’ll go pick him up and we’ll go out for dinner. (Always to Maid Marion’s—that’s the only place in town he wants to eat.)

And you know what? I have grown to really appreciate those times. I was telling my mother recently that I know I won’t always have that opportunity. Someday he may actually retire, and at that time I won’t see him as often. And there will come a time when I get that phone call to tell me that he’s gone. And I won’t see him again during this lifetime. I’m not looking forward to that call about either of my parents, but I know that’s inevitable.

Now, I realize that some of you may not be able to relate to this, because perhaps your fathers were never involved in your life, or perhaps they simply weren’t the best of fathers. But I’ve been blessed with a good father. And I remember what it was like as a little kid, looking forward to my father being home. (Unless, of course I had been warned earlier in the day, “you just wait until your father gets home.”)

I remember him telling me bedtime stories. I remember going on trips with him. I remember thinking he was so strong and could do anything. If we were driving through a snowstorm and he was at the wheel, I didn’t worry because I knew we’d make it through. If something was broken, he could fix it. And my dad really could beat up your dad. At least, that’s that way I saw him.

I was a gift for me to have a father like my dad. But the reality is, there will come a time when he’s not there anymore. And when that time comes, I know I will experience a sense of loss like you can only experience when you lose a parent.

And that’s why it’s so significant what Isaiah announces to his listeners: “There is coming the Messiah, and when you come into a relationship with him, he’ll be a Wonderful Counselor. He’ll be a Mighty God. But more than that… when you come into a relationship with Him as a child with a Father—He will be an Everlasting Father. You will never get that phone call saying He’s gone. He will always be there for you.

And so this morning, if Jesus is your Everlasting Father, let me remind you that with him at the wheel you can make it through any storm. If your life is broken, He can fix it. There’s nothing that’s beyond His ability. He really can do anything.

When you have an Everlasting Father, you don’t have to worry. You don’t have to live in fear. I think that’s something each one of us deep down longs to know. And when that relationship with the Everlasting Father is not in place, then there is all kinds of fear and insecurity. We need that fundamental relationship with our Everlasting Father.

If you’re here and you don’t have that relationship, why not begin it this morning. Why not decide right now that from this moment on you will be a follower of Jesus? He invites you to be part of His family; why not take Him up on that and become a child of God?

You can do that right now. There’s no magical incantation; just in the quietness of your heart make the decision, let Jesus know you’re done with living life on your own, and commit to following Him from here on out.

If you’ve done that, then you can be assured that you are now a child of God. And He is your Everlasting Father who will never fail you, will never disappoint you, and will never leave you. That’s the good news of great joy available to all people.

Well, there one more name. Perhaps appropriate after what we just talked about, the initials are P.O.P. What is it?

4.    Prince of Peace

Isaiah 9:6 (NLT)
And he will be called… Prince of Peace.

Now, you and I both know that one thing that’s really lacking in our world is peace. There are wars being fought all over this planet. There are political conflicts and military conflicts, there’s abuse happening in homes, there’s bigotry and racism, there and gender divides and economic divides. Human beings seem to be able to fight over just about anything.

Listen, peace treaties and court orders may have their place, but they don’t bring a genuine peace. Real peace can only be accomplished by the radical work of God in the human heart.

So let me ask you: Is there any other power on planet Earth that can establish a peace so deep and real and pure in the hearts of individuals that it would inspire them to extend that peace across racial divides, ethnic divides, gender divides, socioeconomic divides?

When your own life—your own inner world—is filled with chaos, divisiveness, animosity—when you have a troubled heart, do you reach out easily to people who are different from you? When you have hostility in your heart, is it easy for you to reach out to someone who has a different skin color or ethnicity? When your heart is troubled and filled with chaos, do you give a rip about people around the world who are living in poverty and dying of starvation, disease and war?

Jesus told His followers…

John 14:27 (NLT)
“I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.”

What was He talking about? He was talking about a radical, inner peace. He’s talking about a peace within yourself that takes root so deeply in your life that when it all gets settled and quiet and centered in your inner world, you’re able to look at someone who’s different from you, and you immediately reach the hand across whatever divide it is—a racial divide, ethnic divide, gender divide, socioeconomic divide.

When God’s peace takes root in your life, you just want that to spread all over the world from inside out. This is why when Jesus was born the angel said to the shepherds…

Luke 2:14 (NLT)
“Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”

This is what our world needs more than anything else. Peace with God, peace with others, and peace within ourselves.



Copyright © Greg Hanson, 2008