Do you really get Christmas? Unto YOU a Son is Given
“The Herdmans were the worst children in the history of the world!” And we begin to believe it when we see the way that the five scraggly, rough-and-tumble, self-chaperoned Herdman children highjack a perfectly good church Christmas pageant. The very idea of combining the Herdmans and Sunday School is enough to make any self-respecting church lady begin to itch. And there is an abundance of itching church ladies in the story of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.
The Herdmans terrorize and intimidate other children, steal their snacks, and take the Lord’s name in vain. Plus, they don’t know the first thing about the Christmas story. And even when the story is explained to them, they retell it using words like “pregnant” and then include plans to kill Herod and rename the story Revenge at Bethlehem. The greatest shock comes when Emma Jean, who smokes cigars in the ladies’ room, appoints herself to play the part of Mary.
The pageant is destined to be a disaster, especially considering that the littlest terror, Gladys who is cast as the Angel of the Lord, interprets her role like a Marvel Comic book character. She thinks the Angel comes “out of the black of the night with a horrible vengeance!” She bosses the shepherds without mercy. She makes her entrances with a startling “Sha-zam!”
Spoiler alert: But best of all, by the end of the play the Herdman children get the Christmas story. They really get it. Though I’ve seen the finale presented in urban churches, simple playhouses and large historic theaters, tears still come when little red-headed, raggle-taggle Gladys Herdman runs out of the darkness into the spotlight at center stage, points to the audience and yells,
“Hey! Hey! Unto YOU a child is born!”
And when we understand the second part of that Biblical announcement, we understand the whole point of Christmas.
For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given and
the government shall be upon His shoulders,
and His name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God,
the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6
We are given two viewpoints of the same event in that verse – one from earth and one from Heaven. We have to read and think carefully or we will miss the whole point of Christmas. From the human perspective, a child was born that night; yet from heaven’s perspective, a Son was given. And there is an eternity of difference between those two perspectives!
A child being born is not an event of terribly great note. It happens every day and every night in every country and nation of the world. Children are born. Most of the time, we pay very little attention to those births. If “a child is born” was the sum total of this heavenly announcement, it would hardly be a blip on the screen. If the announcement ends there and the earthly perspective is all that we hear then the proclamation holds little impact and little hope.
If the earthly perspective of this announcement was all that was given, all we would know is another life is born to endure broken promises and face reoccurring disappointment. “A child is born” as a solitary announcement holds thin optimism.
If the earthly perspective of this announcement was all that was given, we would lose more the reason for our grand winter holiday. By itself “a child is born,” truly would be, as C.S. Lewis wrote, “always winter and never Christmas.”
In that case, the best we could hope for would be:
another counselor with limited wisdom
another self-driven leader desiring worship and demanding obedience
another finite and fallible father
another political voice marketing a scheme for “peace on earth, good will to men.”
BUT – “a child is born” isn’t all of the news.
Heaven’s perspective finishes the story and it is breathtaking! Heaven’s perspective is this: As a child is born – at the same time – A SON IS GIVEN!
This new-born child is God’s Son given and He is given to demonstrate God’s love for us. The Son was given as a gift to us because “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:16
This birth was the Incarnation – God wrapped in humanity. This birth meant Emmanuel – God “with us.” This Son given was God Himself reaching down to gather us to Himself because, try as we might, we can never reach up far enough to reach into a relationship with the Sovereign Lord of the Universe. The chasm between us and God is too great. The sin is too horrific, the guilt is too undeniable, the penalty is too inescapable. This giving of the Son demonstrated God’s desire to come to us – to rescue and redeem us.
You’re not just a baby, soft skinned and so small,
born this night in Bethlehem in an ordinary stall.
No, you’re not just a baby, soft skinned and so small,
You’re holy God incarnate, great love-gift to us all. BD
The initiating and everlasting love of the Father set His eternal plan in motion. The Son was given “unto us” to be our substitute, as we read in Isaiah 53:4-6:
Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
But he was wounded for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his stripes we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned every one to his own way;
and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
Jesus is the Christmas gift given to pay the penalty for our sin, to take our judgment, to be our substitute so that God’s righteous requirements would be satisfied – completely and finally. We bring the “gift” of our sin and He brought the gift of forgiveness from sin – and the anticipation of heaven. What a marvelous, undeserved exchange!
The heavenly perspective, “a Son is given” brings us the whole, completed, entire picture of Christmas.
Because a Son was given, we enjoy the benefits of:
the Mighty God,
the Everlasting Father,
the Prince of Peace.
Unto us (sinners) a Son is given!
This is why we sing, “O Come, Let us adore Him.”
This is why we pray, “Help us, Lord to keep a heavenly perspective of Christmas.”
This is why we live a life that shouts,
“Hey! Hey! Unto YOU a child is born! Unto YOU a Son is given!”
Hopefully, we really get it, too.