For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
(Isaiah 9:6, NIV)
Christmas brings surprises. A favorite is big packages with tiny gifts, unwrapped to the laughter of family. But small packages with big gifts are more rare—and more treasured. Perhaps an engagement ring. For the well-to-do, maybe a key to a new car. The small can conceal the immense.
Referring to the coming of the Son of God at the Incarnation, Sóren Kierkegaard called Jesus the “incognito God.” For so He was. Appearing clandestinely—“a shoot from the stump of Jesse” on whom rested the sevenfold Spirit of God (Isaiah 1 1:1–3)—our Savior “had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him” (53:2). The Jewish people expected far more: a Royal Son, a Regal Ruler. (And that will yet come.)
Within the milieu of messianic expectations at the time of Jesus, many presumed the Promised One would be human, the Davidic conqueror king. Others argued He would be the divine, heavenly “Son of Man” (Daniel 7:13), one coming on the clouds and worshiped by all nations. Or, again, as some Jewish rabbinical scholars today recognize, others believed the Messiah must be both human and divine.
For all the Christmas wonder packed into Isaiah 9:6, the most astonishing title ascribed to the “child born” exalts Him as “Mighty God” (Heb. El Gibbor). The term “mighty” (gibbor) portrays a lion, a powerful warrior, an elite combatant. Sometimes the same term describes God as a great hero, the all-powerful one. But the exact phrase “Mighty God” only occurs one more time in all the Old Testament, this in Isaiah 10:21 where unmistakably the LORD Himself is “Mighty God.”
Here is the wonder of the tiny gift and the true meaning of Christmas: Jesus is both “a child born” and “Mighty God.” Because He is both God and man, He is able to save all who trust Him. And He will establish His kingdom, caring for His people as the greatest of kings do, as a father forever and ever. Merry, merry Christmas.