Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Wonderful Councilor: How Jesus calls us to reimagine the Christmas Season

I am using Walter Brueggemann's Names for the Messiah: An Advent Study this advent season as a different way to move through the Advent Season. This is especially helpful since we won't be at one consistent church this Advent Season which makes it hard to keep a consistent theme or teaching throughout this time of year.

The book is focused on Isaiah 9:2-7 and the four names that were used in that passage. These names, while originally meant for a different king have come to focus on what type of Messiah or King that Jesus will be. The first one is Wonderful Councilor. 

What Walter Brueggemann focuses on in his introduction of this first name is that many of us, when we hear the title of Christ being announced, that Jesus is being called a “wonderful counselor” but in reality the name is “wonderful councilor.” Jesus is not being called to listen to people and give advice, instead he is being announced as the new government administrator who is responsible for bringing about a new government.

As Christians we acknowledge that Advent, or the Christmas season, is a time of preparation for the birth of Christ. What the first of Jesus’ titles in Isaiah 9 is reminding us of is that the Christmas season is not about the beginning and ending of feelings of good cheer, but rather the beginning of something more. This idea of the Christmas spirit being all year round is common and a commonly echoed wish in many of our lives during Christmas time. So many good things happen around Christmas like food and clothing drives, donations for various causes, volunteering at various non-profits, and a focus on gift-giving to others. It is a time of the year known for transforming scrooges into generous benefactors and for reminding us what is truly important, such as families and relationships.

Jesus however, came to implement a new kingdom, not simply a slightly more generous season of giving. His title as councilor ushers in a new government with new policies, programs, and values. The transfer of administrations often means new government employees, campaign promises to fulfill, and voters to satisfy. The difference this time is that the agenda is not being set by a human hand, but God’s own hand.

The point however, is that this is a season of preparation for permanent change, not simply as a nice sentimental suggestion, but as a requirement. Therefore, we need to seriously think about how to move from the charity of the moment, towards a new way of living. Moving from soup kitchens to removing food deserts and reducing homelessness. Moving from dropping coins in a budget to dropping consumerism as a way of life with is actually leading to the death of our planet, economy, and family relationships. Move from volunteering in a great cause to building relationships with vulnerable or oppressed populations, relationships which will inform our lives and living year around.

We need to make this change as Christians, not just if we want to, as if Jesus’ title was “Wonderful Counselor” and he had made these suggestions to us while in a little office with a leather couch, but remembering that Jesus’ title is Wonderful Councilor and he is coming to institute a new way of life for all people.

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