For Unto Us a Child Is Born

unto usI love Handel’s Messiah.  Has there ever been a more beautiful, more thorough artistic rendering of the life of Christ than that great musical masterpiece?  I always try to take advantage of any opportunity to hear Messiah performed, and tears stream down my face as the choir proclaims: “The kingdom of this world has become the Kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ!”

Originally intended for the Easter season, it is interesting that Handel’s Messiah has become known as a Christmas tradition.  But I am so thankful that it has become a tradition of the Christmas season, because it helped re-form my view of this time of year.  As a child growing up in a wonderful Christian home, we were taught very clearly that Christmas was not about trees, stockings, or flying reindeer (though those were fun traditions to celebrate), but that the real reason for the season was the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ.  However, it was Handel’s comprehensive treatment of the story of Christ in Messiah that first brought home to me the great truth of the birth of Jesus – that He was born to die.

Handel drew extensively from the Old Testament prophecies for his oratorio, and two pieces in particular brought the full truth of the incarnation to my mind through two passages from the prophet Isaiah:  “For unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given, and the government shall be upon His shoulder, and His name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6); and the great “Surely He has borne our griefs” passage of Isaiah 53.

In the light of the Christmas season, these two passages seem to call to each other through the pages of Scripture:

He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief.
Unto us a child is born.
Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.
Unto us a child is born.
Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrow, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted.
Unto us a child is born.
But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; 
Unto us a child is born.
The punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.
Unto us a child is born.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
Unto us a child is born.

At Christmas, we are thankful for the incarnation, when God so loved the world that He sent His only son to be one of us.  But let us not forget the reason He came: to take upon Himself our iniquities and redeem us from the guilt and power of sin.  It was, as the hymnwriter said, “the dawn of redeeming grace”.

“And He shall reign forever and ever.”

~ Matt Kinnell
NHIM Board Chair

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