Your response to the coming of God in your life depends in large part on your attitude toward God. Is the arrival of Immanuel good news or bad news? Isaiah sees the darkness, gloom, and despair that overwhelms a nation that persistently refuses to trust God. If Ahaz (Isaiah 7 and 2 Kings 16) and others will not trust God then they will lead the nation into a deep descent in which paranoia (Isaiah 8:12) and fear rule their hearts. Because they refuse the knowledge and the word of God, superstition and the occult (Isaiah 8:19-22) rule their hearts creating a dissatisfied and angry generation. These people have no peace in their hearts nor in their nation as it will be ravaged by the Assyrians. Without the perspective provided by trust in the sovereign God they will drift in darkness.
And then Isaiah sees the grace of God break into the darkness like a mighty spreading light. The NIV introduces Isaiah 9:1 with “Nevertheless.” This “inspite of” moment is a glorious interruption that comes not because of the righteousness of the people, but because of the character of God. “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)
Christmas is a celebration of God’s zealous intervention in our darkness. The Messiah comes as a child, initiating a new kingdom, not by means of earthly rule or military might (John 18:36-37). He is not more warlike than Israel or the Assyrians. Rather the Messiah comes and by his character and very presence among us–the literal fulfillment of Immanuel, God with us–As a child, He begins his peaceable, expanding, and eternal Kingdom. Now we may know Jesus as our Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:7)
Like Ahaz, we may have lived in our own darkness, independent of God, ignoring His call for faith in Jesus, but “nevertheless” the grace of God breaks into our world, “For unto us a child is born.” If God truly loves us, that changes everything. (See Ephesians 2:1-10)