Welcome to the first Sunday of Advent! You can find the lyrics for worship here.
Isaiah 9:6 Puzzle Activity (for children and adults)
Every week in Advent we will be exploring a new name of this child who is born to us. We find these four names in Isaiah 9:6. You can find the puzzle colouring page referred to in the teaching here.
I encourage you to cut this coloring page into its four pieces before your kids see it (a little mystery is always fun). Every week as we explore a new name of this child who is born to us, there is a corresponding puzzle piece that your children (or you) can colour. Every week, when you finish colouring the piece, you can add it to the picture and by Christmas Eve you’ll see a full picture of this great gift God has given us. Enjoy!
To Us a Child is Born: A Wonderful Counsellor
The title of our Advent series is “To Us a Child is Born” and we will explore the common prophetic passage Isaiah 9:6. Before we move to verse 6 I invite you to open your Bibles and turn to Isaiah 9:1.
When you hear the words, “Wonderful Counselor” what do you think of? I think of someone in a guiding role, a spiritual director, a counsellor, a therapist, a one-on-one intimate relationship. But, as I studied the Hebrew (by study, I mean look it up online, I don’t know Hebrew), I found that the word “Counselor” used here is actually in reference to a King, a King who is capable of making plans and seeing them through; and the word for wonderful is more like “incomprehensible” in the best way possible, just way too good to even believe. So, “Wonderful Counselor” could also be translated as the most incredible, marvellous, incomprehensibly wise King who determines and carries out action that will make all the nations’ jaws drop. So, not my personal therapist.
I won’t lie, at first I was a little disappointed at this translation. I liked the intimate, super close and personal, help-me-with-all-issues counsellor role translation that I’ve lived with my whole life. I’m not saying that Jesus doesn’t walk close beside us—He has given us His Holy Spirit to lead us into all truth, to be our comforter and remind us of what Jesus taught us of the Father—but in this instance this little child comes to us, not as a intimate one-on-one therapist, but as a King who is capable of making wise plans and carrying them out.
I started out, perhaps, with a bit of disappointment but very soon I realized how in need of this Wonderful Counsellor, this wise King I am; how in need of this Wonderful, wise counsellor our church, city, province, nation is.
Isaiah wrote this in a time when Israel was being dominated by the Assyrians, a very scary reality, and the Israelite King Ahaz had no confidence in God to save them. He made some very unwise decisions and deals with the Assyrians because of his lack of confidence that brought Israel to a ruined place.
I can imagine that when Israel prophesies of a Wonderful Counsellor, a wise King that will make perfectly just decisions leading to the abundant life of the Israelite people, this was a welcome prophecy. I’m sure every Israelite had pretty clear ideas of what wise counsel in the political square would look like.
I found myself daydreaming of the same thing when I started to take on this understanding of this Christ-child who has come to save us. He will be a Wonderful Counsellor. Oh, how we need some incomprehensibly wise counsel right now. I am compassionate toward every person in leadership in our church, city, province, and nation as they navigate what must feel like impossible times and impossible decisions. Oh, how I pray for wisdom to permeate every room where decisions are made. These are not easy decisions.
Doesn’t it sound glorious to have a Wonderful Counsellor on call, who can come in and just make perfectly wise decisions that bring abundant life and thriving for every person, for all creation? Yes, that sounds pretty fantastic right about now. Never mind in the political arena, I am crying out for a Wonderful Counsellor in every seemingly impossible or difficult decision I have to make, every day, as we respond to this pandemic within our family unit. I hear my heart saying, “Come, Lord Jesus”, come and be the Wonderful Counsellor over our family, over our nation.
But I catch myself. Just like every Israelite probably had a pretty clear idea of what this Wonderful Counsellor should do; just like every disciple of Jesus and others that heard His teaching had a pretty clear idea of what Jesus’ reign should look like as Messiah (taking down the political powers of Rome); just like I have a pretty clear idea of what I want this Wonderful Counsellor’s portfolio to look like right now; all of us had/have the wrong idea.
My human ideas, my human understanding of what wise counsel looks like in this time will be short sighted and contained to this current situation. Just like the Israelites couldn’t even imagine the scope or the plans of this Wonderful Counsellor, I cannot comprehend the ways, the plans that this Wonderful Counsellor has in the works right now. Perhaps that’s exactly why He’s incomprehensible.
As much as I want to give this Wonderful Counsellor my to-do list for the political issues, the social issues, and beyond, His agenda and His plans are going to look different than mine. I can’t even comprehend all that He is capable of and the grand scope of His eternal, but present now, work. I only need to look as far as the manger to realize that my wisdom is not God’s wisdom. My plans would not have included a vulnerable child laying in the straw, and yet, this is how the Wonderful Counsellor has come. He truly is a Wonderful Counsellor.
Just because this wisdom escapes us doesn’t make it less wise. Father God, in all His wisdom, sent us His Son, the very image of the invisible God, to be the Wonderful Counsellor. In this Christ-child the whole counsel and wisdom of God is revealed. We learn the wisdom of God through the ways of Jesus. Through the coming of a small child the wise and incomprehensible counsel of God is revealed.
This name of Christ, Wonderful Counsellor, highlights our own inability to make perfectly wise decisions. That deep frustration you feel, the feeling that true wisdom and perfect decisions are out of reach, that we are lacking something in our humanity and human responses—that feeling is telling the truth; we are lacking something. Our human wisdom is not perfect.
As a leader, I will get some part of a decision wrong 10 times out of 10. This isn’t because I’m a horrible person. It’s because I am not the Wonderful Counsellor. If I’m feeling inescapable frustration, if you are when you consider the decisions being made around you, I have to ask the question: who are you looking to, depending on to be your Wonderful Counsellor, to be your Saviour? Are you willing to receive the wisdom of the true Wonderful Counsellor, the wisdom of this little child?
His wonderful counsel sounds like love your enemies; bless those who persecute you; take care of the widow, the orphan, the oppressed; forgive each other; lay your life down to find it. Just because this wisdom escapes our human understanding doesn’t make it less wise.
As we listen to the words, as we watch the ways of this Wonderful Counsellor, as we seek Him in prayer, we will be led in perfect wisdom but this perfect wisdom hits up against our desires to keep hold of control or maintaining power. All power belongs to this Wonderful Counsellor, this all-wise King who gave up His place in the heavenly realms, came to this earth as a vulnerable child and eventually even laid down His earthly life. This is the all-wise King we follow, this is the Kingdom we inhabit.
As you take time to prepare yourself for the arrival of this little child, consider, who are you depending on as your Wonderful Counsellor?