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The Wonder of Kuyper

In Christ, salvation has come! A Christmas reflection adapted by Dr. Mike Wagenman.

“Then they will look toward the earth and see only distress and darkness and fearful gloom, and they will be thrust into utter darkness” (Isa. 8:22).

To awaken our hearts to the brilliant splendor that will shine out from the birth of the Son for us, the Holy Spirit, through Isaiah, describes our fallen world as a “land of deep darkness and of great anguish.” Such a tragedy! Our world was once bathed in light, every garden bearing fruit, and the people singing for joy: the whole country filled with delights. Now we have grown cold; the streams have frozen over; the whole land has been covered in darkness. Life is one endless valley of the shadows of death. Everything that once was full of joy and light and life is now anguish, gloom and darkness.

The dawn of God’s mercy
“Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. […] The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned” (Isa. 9:1-2).

And such it was until at last the mercies of God dawned on us as in a most glorious morning: a hopeful red blooming on the horizon, the sounds of joy beginning to return to dry throats. From all the corners of darkness, from behind every shadow of death, a shout of joy breaks forth! For those who have known only woe, seeing this Sonrise, they drop to their knees in ecstasy, unable to contain their joy and praise. A choir is forming in the early morning light. Their chorus is a heavenly melody, even more significant and exuberant than the angels’ worship. For here, among these who were lost, salvation has come and a deep joy has been born!

Out of death into life
“And his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace” (Isa. 9:5).

“Wonderful” because this is overwhelmingly astonishing in its goodness! Everything, as far as the eye could see, was gray. But now a glorious beauty appears, flooding the world with its golden glow. Just like an ordinary sunrise can make a child cry with delight, so now what God has finally done for us cannot be contained. It is unspeakably glorious. It is wonderful. Simply wonderful! No other words can be found to describe it.

He is a “counsellor” because his grace engages even our minds and imaginations. Where we had exhausted ourselves with trying to find an escape route from destruction and misery, our hopelessness is now no longer walled in. A path has been made through the deadly sea. Where no human device could bring a solution, and so despair was our every thought, a child has been born and in his birth every wall has fallen and every gate is flung open wide. Deliverance! Our counsellor will lead us out of death and into life through his unfathomable wisdom! He knows the way to life again!

Heavy weights lifted
Only the action of our “mighty God” could accomplish this for us. Sin is a power. The darkness and the shadow of death are heavy weights. We were powerless before them. We were all imprisoned, shackled to the darkness, and we were unnerved before the empty prospect of release. No matter how much we armed ourselves for battle, we were laid low with exhaustion in body and heart. The disappointment of defeat was ever with us and it was a bitter existence. Our enemy was always the victor. But then a Son was born. And he grew to be a hero, a hero who engaged in an epic battle. He smashed sin, death and Satan to pieces!

Before, hope had passed away. Time had been lost to the past. Strength swooned from sheer exhaustion. No footprint remained visible. No flower bloomed before the stem was broken. Everything we’d ever known slipped away to oblivion. But now a Son has been born! Death? Never again! An eternal light has been lit! Darkness? No more!

Each Christmas we remember
Now this Child rules over all. And everything that passes through his sovereignty draws us into his glory with heart revived. A sense of peace pervades our soul. Now there is no compulsion, no violence is perpetrated, for this rule brings a sweet rest from all our anxious worries and strivings. Every note of discord is gradually silenced and the purest harmonies fill all the corridors and archways of both the heart and the city. We are bathed in uninterrupted, heavenly calm. We lose ourselves in peace wherever we turn. It is a peace that does not come from anywhere but from the Child who rules as the Prince of Peace. His strength is his patient gentleness.

This scene of anxious darkness penetrated by the rising of the Son, the pouring out of his light into the heart, and the chorus of praise and adoration: this beautiful scene is enacted again and again. It repeats itself in every one who passes from darkness to light. Every Christmas that we celebrate in sincerity and truth is the repetition of our own rebirth from darkness to light. As God’s dearly loved people who live in the joy of his light, each Christmas we once again acclaim this Child to be our “Wonderful One, Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace”!

  • Mike is the Christian Reformed campus minister at Western University in London, Ont., where he is also a professor of theology and culture. He is the author of Engaging the World with Abraham Kuyper (2019). Mike adapted this reflection, published by Kuyper December 13, 1899, for our cultural context.

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