On these last days of Advent, we turn our gaze to the love embodied in the crib. The incarnation carries into our world not just hope, peace, and joy, but Christ brings with Him a love of unending depth. As Sally Lloyd Jones writes in The Jesus Storybook Bible, “A never-ending, never-giving up, always and forever love.” Paul Miller describes what happened in the incarnation this way, “Love walked among us.” How does a baby love beyond smiles, sweet smells, and long sleep? The angel declares the reality of God’s love that first Christmas Eve, “Unto you is born this day, a savior.”
Jesus is born Rescuer. Born to rescue us from a world made wretched through sin, death, and evil. Born for the world and to save the world.
Jesus Born Savior
Returning to Isaiah, as we have often this past month, we find the passion of Jesus predicted in powerful poetry in Isaiah 52-53. Regularly read on Good Friday, this poem in Isaiah reveals the intent of Immanuel. Let the words sink in as you consider Christ born into this world to redeem it.
See, my servant will act wisely;
he will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted.
Just as there were many who were appalled at him—
his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any human being
and his form marred beyond human likeness—
so he will sprinkle many nations,
and kings will shut their mouths because of him.
For what they were not told, they will see,
and what they have not heard, they will understand.
Who has believed our message
and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
He grew up before him like a tender shoot,
and like a root out of dry ground.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by mankind,
a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.
Surely he took up our pain
and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
He was oppressed and afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
and as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.
By oppression and judgment he was taken away.
Yet who of his generation protested?
For he was cut off from the land of the living;
for the transgression of my people he was punished.
He was assigned a grave with the wicked,
and with the rich in his death,
though he had done no violence,
nor was any deceit in his mouth.
Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer,
and though the Lord makes his life an offering for sin,
he will see his offspring and prolong his days,
and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand.
After he has suffered,
he will see the light of life and be satisfied;
by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many,
and he will bear their iniquities.
Therefore I will give him a portion among the great,
and he will divide the spoils with the strong,
because he poured out his life unto death,
and was numbered with the transgressors.
For he bore the sin of many,
and made intercession for the transgressors. (Isaiah 52:13-53:12 NIV)
The Suffering Servant, the King of Glory, comes to be with us in sin, and to take on the sins of men. The love of God compels God to suffer and die so that Immanuel, God-with-us, can be a forever reality. There are three clear signs God loves you without end: the swaddling cloths of a newborn baby, the bloody cross, and the empty tomb. There is one clear definition of the love with which God has loved us all: Jesus. He is amazing love.
Martin Luther says what most of us might say at the realization of Jesus’ incarnation and the love He brings into the world:
“Were earth a thousand times as fair
beset with gold and jewels rare
she yet were far too poor to be
A narrow cradle, Lord, for thee.”
Humanity isn’t worthy of this love, it appears.
Saving You Through the Cross Was His Joy!
The writer of Hebrews 12:1-4 responds to our sense of undeserving love this way as an encouragement to persevere, “For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2 NIV).
Do you hear that? Jesus endures all that is described in Isaiah out of a pursuit for joy. Jesus chose joy, and it was you. It was for the defeating of shame for you. He reigns to bring you life. He died to vanquish your sin, and it was for joy.
All of this is summed up in Charles Wesley’s brilliant poetry and can be, for us, an anthem to heaven and prayer toward every part of our cities:
Come, thou long expected Jesus,
born to set thy people free;
from our fears and sins release us,
let us find our rest in thee.
Israel’s strength and consolation,
hope of all the earth thou art;
dear desire of every nation,
joy of every longing heart.
Born thy people to deliver,
born a child and yet a King,
born to reign in us forever,
now thy gracious kingdom bring.
By thine own eternal spirit
rule in all our hearts alone;
by thine all sufficient merit,
raise us to thy glorious throne.