Christmas, the Story of God on a Mission
Advent reading: Isaiah 49:1-7; 50:4-11
Christmas is the story of God on a mission. The Christmas story does not begin with the birth of baby Jesus. It starts with the prophecies of his birth at his first coming which we have traced from Genesis 3:15 through the promises to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, and Isaiah. God’s mission is further clarified in Isaiah 49:1-7.
God is on a mission. Theologians use the Latin term Missio Dei which means “mission of God,” or “the sending of God.” 1 God’s mission is revealed as the Father speaks to the Son:
“I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth” (Isaiah 49:6b).
God’s mission is not limited to the nation of Israel; it extends to the whole world. God’s Son is “the Savior of the world” (John 4:42). He is “the light of the world” (John 8:12). As he promised Abraham, “In your offspring [Christ] shall all the nations of the earth be blessed” (Genesis 22:18).
God fully intends “to bring Jacob back to him; and that Israel might be gathered to him” (Isaiah 49:5), but he declares to the Son,
Isaiah 49:6 (ESV) — …“It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to bring back the preserved of Israel; I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”
The Lord God says to the Son, “It is not enough that Israel would be redeemed. I want you to shine to the nations. I want my salvation through you to reach to the ends of the earth.”
God’s mission is that the earth would be filled with the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea (Isaiah 11:9; Habakuk 2:14).
How is this to happen? How is God’s salvation to extend to the whole inhabited earth?
First, God provides salvation through his Son. The context of Isaiah 49 shows that the greater fulfillment of these verses points to God’s Son. The Son speaks of his incarnation, when he, the pre-existent Word, became flesh:
Isaiah 49:1 (ESV) — …The LORD called me from the womb, from the body of my mother he named my name.
Seven hundred years later, while the child was in Mary’s womb, angelic messengers told both Mary and Joseph that they were to call him Jesus. Gabriel told Mary,
Luke 1:31 (ESV) — And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus.
An angel told Joseph,
Matthew 1:21 (ESV) — She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”
In the same way, Hebrews tells us,
Hebrews 10:5 (ESV) — Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said, “Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body have you prepared for me;
Again verse 5 refers to the LORD as “he who formed me from the womb to be his servant.” The Triune God — Father, Son, and Holy Spirit — is spirit. God had to prepare a body for Christ to come into the world and fulfill God’s mission. The divine Son assumed a human nature and entered into human history as a man.
God’s message of salvation is the second means by which he will accomplish his mission.
The Servant Son’s message penetrating message is “likened to two sharp weapons,” 2 a “sharp sword” and a “polished arrow:”
Isaiah 49:2 (ESV) — He made my mouth like a sharp sword; in the shadow of his hand he hid me; he made me a polished arrow; in his quiver he hid me away.
Twice he states “in the shadow of his hand he hid me” and “in his quiver he hid me away.” God’s eternal plan was hidden until the appropriate time when Christ entered into the world (Galatians 4:4; Ephesians 3:4-5, 8-10). 3
The message of salvation through Jesus Christ is declared to the ends of the earth:
Isaiah 49:1 (ESV) — Listen to me, O coastlands, and give attention, you peoples from afar…
The world is called to “Listen to me” and “give attention.” The message of salvation through Christ alone is for the “coastlands” and “peoples from afar.”
Hebrews 1:1–2 (ESV) — Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son…
“This is my beloved Son,” God says, “listen to him.”
Christmas is the story of how God’s mission of salvation for the world is accomplished through Christ and his Word.
2 Geoffrey W. Grogan, “Isaiah,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Proverbs–Isaiah (Revised Edition), ed. Tremper Longman III, Garland David E., vol. 6 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008), 777.
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