In William Shakespeare’s tragedy, Romeo & Juliette, Juliette asks the question; “What’s in a name?” In Old Testament times, names had special significance. A person’s name often related to the circumstances of their birth (Moses means: “drawn from the water”); a particular characteristic about the person (Esau means: “hairy one”); or a praise to God (Isaiah means: “YHWH is Salvation”). A name also said something about a person’s purpose or destiny. We see this very clearly in Isaiah chapter 9.

700 years before the birth of Jesus that first Christmas night, the prophet Isaiah had a vision–God pulled back the curtain on the future, and gave him a glimpse of the One whose birth would be the fulcrum of history. Jesus’ original birth announcement, spoken by the prophet, comes as a promise of hope in a time of deep darkness and despair for the people of Israel; turning their gaze from the present to the future, to what God was going to do to put the world to rights and redeem His people. Cast in the form of a song or poem, Isaiah’s words are a celebration of joy, hope, and light coming into the midst of darkness:

“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. For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.” (Isaiah 9:1-7)

Against the dark back drop of national despair, Isaiah envisions the dawning of the light of salvation, which will result in great joy for God’s people. God is not just going to bring about liberation from foreign oppressors, but the complete cessation to warfare itself. And He’s going to do it through the gift of a Son. God’s answer to everything that has ever terrorized us–to all the bullies swaggering through history–isn’t an even bigger bully, but a baby! His answer is Jesus! And all of the expectations of the throne of David–the hopes and fears of all the years–will be fulfilled in this child. For the baby bundled in the straw holds the universe together. The One nestled in Mary’s shoulders bears everything on His shoulders. He is Ruler and Redeemer of all.

One of the dangers this time of the year is that we can fail to appreciate the fullness of the One who comes. We can be inoculated by the incarnation; desensitized to the power of its message; and even bored with the baby, when we focus on the infant Jesus only. However, as Isaiah tells us, Jesus is far more than just a baby; and “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” are more than just names or titles. They are powerful descriptions of who Jesus is and what He came to accomplish.

What’s in a name? Only everything that we needed to be brought back into relationship with God. What’s in a name? A salvation that lasts forever. A love than can never be fully understood. A life that’s forever changed. A power that can accomplish more than we can ask or imagine. A message that’s eternal. And a gift that’s waiting for the world to open.

“For unto us…” These words change Isaiah’s vision from a vague, impersonal word to a powerful, personal promise. However, the great truths in this passage will fail to have their full effect on us unless they are personally applied and appropriated. This 4-week Advent series will look at the names of Jesus in Isaiah 9:6 as a reminder to us of who it is we are watching and waiting for this Advent season. It’s my hope that as we reflect on these names, we’ll be more readily prepared to receive Jesus into our hearts anew this Christmas.


Sermon:  Wonderful Counselor

Preacher:  The Rev. Christopher Doering

Date: Advent Sunday ~ Sunday, December 1, 2019

Scripture:  Isaiah 9:1-7

Handout:  Part1.HO

Sermon:  Mighty God

Preacher:  The Rt. Rev. Charlie Masters

Date: The 2nd Sunday of Advent ~ Sunday, December 8, 2019

Scripture:  Isaiah 9:1-7  Colossians 1:15-23

Handout:  Part2.HO

Sermon:  Everlasting Father

Preacher:  The Rev. Christopher Doering

Date: The 3rd Sunday of Advent ~ Sunday, December 15, 2019

Scripture: Luke 15:11-24

Handout:  Part3.HO

Sermon:  Prince of Peace

Preacher:  The Rev. Christopher Doering

Date: Christmas Eve ~ Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Scripture:  Luke 2:1-20

Handout: Part4.HO