I hear it most often at Christmas,  but this is no holiday carol.  It is a lullaby for the blackest night — a lyric of hope for people walking in darkness, for people who cannot even imagine the dawn (Isaiah 8:20, 9:2):

For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulders,
    and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace
(Isaiah 9:6).

The song still sings out from the ashes of powerlessness, as it did almost three thousand years ago when it was scratched on to parchment. 

I have done nothing to deserve the music, and neither did the people of Israel, so long ago. But I have heard this whispered chorus of love quite often this past year — when my son drove away from our family in the night, in my prayers over friends suffering crushing loss, on the bed of my own despair. 

For to us a child is born

The Savior-Child is given — not to the abstract, anonymous universe – but to us. To you. To me. I am not forgotten in my darkness. He sees me, and I am loved.

For to us a son is given

The Gift is given — it is free. The Son cannot be begged, bartered, or bought. This radical generosity of God exposes my daily, limping beliefs that I can somehow afford Him with my own stabs at goodness — my schedule, my striving, my shame.  

And the government shall be upon his shoulders.

He wants the weight of my world. I am not made for it; He is. How foolish to believe I should carry it! My anxiety betrays my arrogance.

and his name shall be called 

He defines himself. He doesn’t depend on what I think about Him or my circumstances — how I stagger or succeed. He is the God who created light by naming it:  “Let there be light,” and there was light. For Him, designation is creation; one word, and the story comes true.

And these are the names He speaks forth for Himself; let the Son be these things, and so shall He be:

Wonderful Counselor

I don’t have to know what to do next. He listens and reveals without rush or worry.

Mighty God

I don’t have to be everything — to win at my days. He binds up my wounds and carries me across the finish line.

Everlasting Father

I don’t have to be alone. He is my Dad who holds my hand in the night — who spreads Himself over the gaps of my loneliness and the holes in my love. 

Prince of Peace

I don’t have to fear that I’ll never see rescue. He is the Prince who rides forth to tie up the raveling edges of my fear.  

For unto us a child is born. All will be well because all has been made well. 

For unto us a son is given. I can sleep in heavenly peace.

If you want more joy, you have to plan for it.

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