“For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
What do we call this child? Every couple who welcomes a new member of the family faces this choice, and much thought is put into it. We normally look for family names, names that “fit together,” “flow off the tongue,” or just something we like. In prophetic contexts, names always mean something. This is a classic case. The prophet’s ecstatic writing seems to erupt with symbolic titles.
“Wonderful Counselor” speaks of wisdom, the divine wisdom of love that lays the first layers of existence in the void.
“Mighty God” speaks of the power to hold all things in the divine heart, maintaining us in being, answering the question of why we exist at all.
“Eternal Father” speaks of wise guidance and nurturing, that great ideal that far outstrips our own fathers, whoever they were with all their flaws, carrying us and all things toward the divine heart.
“Prince of Peace” speaks of presence in the troubled world, fierce in the face of injustice, and formidable in our expansiveness.
So often we feel so distant, and injustice seems to be so insurmountable. Our nation is divided. Our leaders feed off those divisions to remain in power. The system seems incapable of rising above itself to bring us all together again.
As Christians, we see the fulfillment of this passage on this day in our sacred history. The Christ Child embodies these truths. He will go on to die by the systems of this world to live again in a “kingdom that is not of this world,” yet in it. Those of us who follow him share in that divine/human existence. We are called to the wisdom that sees the universe as one; able to hold the world as sacred, actively working to shepherd all things toward the divine heart, and fiercely and formidably loving as we have been loved.
At Christmas, we give these names to Christ, and we take them as our own as we seek to live in him.
Teach us so to hear your name for us, that in naming one another in love, we might find that we are being caught up in your divine, redeeming, transforming love, and then show us, we pray, that the whole creation bears your name with and through us, through the One who is Emmanuel. Amen.
-The Rev. Paul Moore