Holy One, Creator, Lord of Hosts, Provider, Healer, Emmanuel, Messiah…there’s no shortage of names or titles available in Scripture attributed to God. Some resonate with us, others feel obscure. Some translate well into today’s world, others don’t. This year we launch into Advent — a season of waiting and longing — with a well-known part of Isaiah as our focal point.
For to us, a child is born, to us, a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Isaiah prophesied about 750 years before Jesus’ birth, and it was a chaotic time for the people of Israel. They hoped for stability and for a respite from what had to feel like non-stop attacks from Assyrian neighbors, and nothing seemed to work. We may not be suffering, in the same way, today, but I think most of us enter Advent longing for a respite from a season of instability.
First, this child is given the title, Wonderful Counselor. In Isaiah’s day, a “counselor” was mostly understood to be an administrator of public policy. “Wonderful” carried a connotation of wisdom and foresight. Together, the two words would’ve brought comfort and implied that change was on the horizon for everyone. It’s the sort of anticipation that built as news of Jesus’ coming birth spread, the sort of anticipation we remember and hold as we await his return.
Change, whether good or bad, has always made me a bit uneasy. Whether starting a new school, moving to a new neighborhood, welcoming a new child, beginning a new job or project…I’ve always found it difficult to adjust to new rhythms. And yet, Advent reminds us to welcome them. The first name given in Isaiah 9:6 is a reminder that we can approach those new rhythms with hope, even in the discomfort or unknown.
In the church world, Advent launches us into a new liturgical calendar. As we enter the season, weary from a multiple-year slog of uncertainty, what sort of change are you anticipating? What new rhythm excites you or worries you? May this year’s journey through Advent remind us we don’t face seasons of change alone. God is with us.
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