“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” (Isa. 9:7).
The day has finally arrived! God has taken on flesh, Christ is born and a new and better kingdom has been inaugurated. In celebration, we open presents, we gather with family, we feast and we rest. We know that the coming of our Lord means this fallen, darkened world is not the rule we shall live under forever. No, as our prophecy from Isaiah clearly points out, with the coming of this baby, everything will change.
Nevertheless, it couldn’t have looked so victorious and revolutionary at the time. Born outside of a Bethlehem Inn in a small, insignificant town and placed in a manger, everything about this King’s birth seemed rather crude. But of course, that is how God loves to work in his creation. God constantly surprises us by taking on that which is repugnant to us in order to redeem those who should be naturally repugnant to him. What we are asked to believe as we ponder the birth of this child is that in his coming, a new creation has dawned.
Unlike the kingdoms of this world, Christ’s rule is ever expanding. As the prophet says, “Of the increase of his government….There shall be no end.” Indeed, history has borne this promise out. With each passing year between his first and second coming, Christ’s reign over this world has grown and grown. No matter what sorts of threats, persecutions and pain have come up against this Christ’s kingdom, his people have continued to increase and his church marches on as his ambassadors to the world. And yet, these ambassadors who bring news of this ever expanding kingdom to the world, do not bring news of bloodshed or pain to cause the masses to bow down to him. No, this kingdom gains new citizens through promises of peace.
Christ’s kingdom triumphs by declaring to the entire world that there is good news: though your sins are as scarlet, God has forgiven all on account of the work of this child who will one day be crucified for their sins. The promised Davidic King has risen and ascended to the right hand of the Father and he has established his throne forever, never to be taken down. The kingdoms of this world are inevitably corrupted by all manner of sin, but our true and better King’s rule is governed by genuine justice and righteousness.
That is to say, the Jesus who cooed in the manger of Bethlehem brings with him a kingdom that is not marked by favoritism, discrimination, or influence peddling. Instead, his is a kingdom for all who believe regardless of socio-economic status, class, race or gender. What unites the citizens of this true and better kingdom inaugurated on Christmas Day is the simple but profound truth that they are all needy for grace as helpless and needy sinners. This is the kingdom all Christians inhabit now (in spite of whatever darkness we must endure as we walk through this life) and will go on to enjoy forever.
As we meditate on all we are promised (and indeed given now) as citizens of this good and benevolent King, it can be quite natural to wonder why. After all, if you’re anything like me, you’re utterly aware of how undeserving you are of any of these promises being poured out on you. We simply don’t deserve “forever life” to be ours. We deserve a right good smack of condemnation, rather than an embrace of peace. For that matter, how is it that we who are so naturally unjust and unrighteous can possibly be made fit to stand in a kingdom governed by just the opposite characteristics? If any of these things are to take place, if any of these promises are to be ours in reality, the basic truth is God himself will have to do it all from start to finish.
If the acquisition of these glorious promises are dependent upon our strength, our faith, or our abilities, then we know all too well, the kingdom must belong to a fictional human being.
But, thanks be to God for the last words of our brief prophecy! There we are told precisely the reason why we can confidently grab hold of these kingdom promises for ourselves: “The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.” Of all the promises of this prophecy I find comfort in, this promise assures me the most. The reason I know the kingdom will continue to expand without end is because the Lord’s uncontainable zeal will have it no other way. The reason I can know with certainty that there is a true peace between me and God is because Jesus Christ has willed it to be so. The reason you can have utter certainty this Christmas that you are bound for a true and better kingdom is because the ruler of that kingdom was so passionate to have you as his own, that he suffered, bled and died to have you. His zeal for you to be a part of his new creation is so boundless that even death can not stop him from bursting back into life to prepare you a new and better home.
Yes, the Jesus who is born this day promises he’s so zealous to have you that he won’t just give you access to his kingdom, but he will keep you there as well. As the Apostle Paul declared to the Philippian church, so I declare to you this Christmas Day, “I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6).