For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And… of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever.

Isaiah 9: 6-7

Government. Does that word strike a positive note in you or a negative note? The word has good and bad connotations. Over the centuries, many corrupt governments run by greedy and power-hungry people have imposed tyranny rather than justice. Their form of order is more often a form of chaos.

It’s a shame that government has gotten such a bad name— because it is, at the same time, a necessary function of any society hoping to be civilized. The ungoverned life is chaos, anarchy, and injustice. Without governing, people would not volunteer to pitch in for the common good, and they would be unwilling to enact laws that require them to sacrifice and set limits on their lives.

And so government is a necessary constraint on our impulses and independence, a way for a person to say, “I need to have standards in my life, and I know that my neighbors and I need to live under those standards for them to be meaningful.”

God knows we need governing. That’s why he calls himself King, Shepherd, Master, Lord, and Father. And when Jesus was born in Bethlehem, the world gained its greatest governor.

Have you ever considered a governing individual and wondered how he or she can bear the sheer weight of immense responsibility? Yet, governing— real, life-shaping authority— ultimately rests on Christ’s shoulders alone: “The government will be on his shoulders.” Now, there is a future time when Jesus will reign as undisputed ruler; but in the meantime, he is exercising considerable governing power.

Since that night in Bethlehem, the world has changed. It is not that evil has disappeared, but its counter— the power of Christ— has been triumphant in one life after another. We see it in the person who gains victory over an addiction, in someone who stands up for justice, in reconciled relationships, in people whose characters are being shaped by the character of Christ.

We can thank God this Christmas that he did not leave us to our chaotic, ungoverned state. A shepherd-king came to stand in the Davidic line not to be like other kings, but to govern our lives from the inside out, as he changes our hearts and enlivens our consciences.

Prayer for today:

Lord, I confess that there is much in me that does not want to be governed. Help me to see joy in the fact that your governing will never end and, because of that, peace will increase.

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