In Isaiah 9:7, after God makes some amazing promises, it says that “the zeal of the Lord” accomplish all of it. I love how the Bible describes God as zealous. But it makes me wonder, what am I zealous for? Christmas is a good time to reflect on precisely that. What is getting most of my attention? Where do I spend most of my time? On what do I spend most of my money?
On the other hand, what is God zealous for? “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone. You have multiplied the nation; you have increased its joy; they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest, as they are glad when they divide the spoil. For the yoke of his burden, and the staff for his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, you have broken as on the day of Midian. For every boot of the tramping warrior in battle tumult and every garment rolled in blood will be burned as fuel for the fire” (Is. 9:2-5).
God is zealous for light. Joy. Justice. Peace.
God’s righteous zeal accomplishes these things in a most unusual way. Nearly 800 years before the manger, God led Isaiah to write, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given” (Is. 9:6). And now, some 2,000 years after the manger, we know that it is the baby Jesus who is Isaiah’s promised child, the Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace. The hope of the whole world lies in the manger. It is a mere baby who will bring light, joy, justice, and peace.
But light for whom? Not for Jesus. When he was crucified, darkness came over the earth even though it was daytime. Joy for whom? Not for Jesus. He asked God to take the cup of suffering from him. Justice for whom? Not for Jesus. The sinless one was made to suffer as a sinner. Peace for whom? Not for Jesus. He was violently killed by his oppressors.
So if not for Jesus, for whom is the light, the joy, the justice, and the peace? The most important words in the whole Isaiah passage are, “to us.” Isaiah writes, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given.” The baby Jesus was born for us. He was born to die in darkness, in despair, unjustly, and in strife, so that we could have light, joy, justice, and peace.
Ultimately, God is zealous for you. His passion, his effort, his love and affection, is directed towards you. That is the simple message of Christmas: that God’s love for you is so zealous that He gave you his only begotten Son.
Christmas is the perfect time to turn away from those unimportant things that too often are the object of our zeal, and instead remember that God is zealous for us. This Christmas, we focus our zeal on that baby Jesus who has shone his light into us, whose salvation causes us to rejoice, who secured justice for us on the cross, who made peace with us by his blood.
May God grant you and your families a joyful celebration of Jesus’ birth. It is our privilege to proclaim the baby Jesus in Southeast Asia. Thank you for sending us on your behalf. MERRY CHRISTMAS!