It is in Isaiah that we find the most famous of prophecies concerning the Incarnation. Isaiah 7:14 tells us "Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel." Later in chapter 9 we read: "For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us, And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace." The promise of a coming Messiah is clear. Unfortunately, we often fail to see them in their historical context.
Isaiah is in the midst of prophesying against Israel because of her unfaithfulness. Very soon he will tell the Israelites that the Assyrians will be God's instrument of discipline. The discipline will be severe! Yet God interrupts this riveting prophecy to speak to Israel about her future. He promises that, in spite of their flagrant disobedience, He will never abandon her. The evidence of this promise will be a child born to a virgin.
Clearly, these verses are promises of love and forgiveness to a nation and people who are totally undeserving. It is a promise of forgiveness given in spite of their actions, not because of. It is a gift of forgiveness that is so far beyond human reason and natural behavior that it has to be divine.
Each of us probably has people in our lives who have hurt us, or greatly disappointed us. They may have humiliated us, or so angered us that we can hardly bear the mention of their names. Because of this, we often write them off and essentially say, "they are dead to me!" Yet we cannot forget that these promises in Isaiah came to a people (us) who had hurt and offended God in every way possible. How can we who have been shown such grace and mercy refuse forgiveness to others?
Since bitterness and the Christmas spirit cannot coexist, ask Jesus to help you to forgive and love this person(s) that you have written off and even condemned as worthless. Call the person(s) to mind that you have written out of your life. Now, as you remember their offenses against you, weigh those against the offenses you have committed against God.
Let me encourage you this season to focus not on the offenses against you, but how God has forgiven your offenses against Him. What Christmas brings us is perspective. It brings us the needed perspective of God's heart toward us, which reminds us of what our hearts should be toward others - even those who have hurt us or disappointed us.
It is significant to note that in Romans 12 after essentially eleven chapters of the Apostle Paul delineating truth after truth pointing to God's merciful work on our behalf, the Apostle says, "Therefore, by the MERCIES of God, I beseech you to present your body (your person) a living sacrifice..." Did you see that? The whole basis for total commitment to God is that of God's mercies.
The real spirit of Christmas is the spirit of Christ who came to forgive. May you enter into that "spirit" this year as you never have before. If you do, I promise you that you will experience the sweetest presence of God in a fresh new way.