The Glory of Christmas: Gladness in Sadness

From the prophet Isaiah, we glean three insights into the glory of Christmas. First, Christmas brings gladness in the midst of the gloom of invasion. Second, Christmas brings light in the darkness of oppression. Third, Christmas breaks the bondage of repression.

Gladness in Sadness. The glory of Jesus’ birth is that it brings gladness in the midst of sadness. You see, Isa. 9:6 proclaims the Glory of Christmas, but it is also set against the background of the Gloom of Christmas.

But there will be no gloom for her who was in anguish. In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he has made glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations” (Isa. 9:1, ESV).

Zebulun and Naphtali are two of the twelve tribes of Israel living in the northern border of Israel (northeast of Galilee, west of the Jordan River), making up the land of Galilee. John MacArthur wrote, “They are the always the first to suffer from the invasion of the Assyrian King (2 Ki. 15:29), marking the beginning of the dark days of Israel.”[1]

The word, “anguish” (ESV), or “distress” (NKJV) is from the Hebrew word, muwtsaq, “narrowness” (Strong) or “constraint” (BDB). Israel was pressured from the North by the Assyrians. The phrase, “more heavily oppressed” (NKJV) (Heb. kavedh) means, “to make heavy” (TWOT/OTWS). God caused Israel to suffer in the hands of the Assyrians because of her disobedience and rebellion.

Christmas came in a situation of sadness. Brian Bill wrote, “While the angels were proclaiming ‘peace on earth,’ Herod was preparing to annihilate infants; while Mary was worshipping, other mothers were weeping for their children (see Jeremiah 31:15; Matthew 2:18). Christmas joy is best understood with the junk of life all around us because gladness comes when we’re grieving. Is that where you’re at today? That’s OK if you are because that’s exactly where Immanuel will meet you.”[2]

But now Isaiah prophesies, “In the latter time he has made glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations . . . you have increased its joy; they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest, as they are glad when they divide the spoil” (Isa. 9:1, 3, ESV)

Hence, the Glory of Christmas is the coming of Christ to Galilee. It is in Galilee where Christ started and based His ministry here on earth. The Glory of Christmas is the gladness that God brings to suffering Israel. This gladness is brought by the birth of a Savior. For unto us is born this day in the city of David, a savior, who is Christ the Lord!


[1] John MacArthur, The MacArthur Study Bible (Nashville: Word, 1997), 968.
[2] Brian Bill, “Isaiah’s Audacious Hope.” Cited December 16, 2011. Online: http://www.sermoncentral.com/sermons/isaiahs-audacious-hope-brian-bill-sermon-on-christmas-99168.asp?page=3.
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