Join us over the coming weeks, in the lead up to Christmas, as members of the WorldShare team shine a light on Isaiah 9, unpacking different sides of Jesus' wonderful character and sharing their Advent reflections.

Greetings at the beginning of this Advent season! I don’t know about you, but I don’t think it feels at all like Advent. Where has this year gone? When I first started thinking about this blog I could have also added, it doesn’t feel like winter let alone being Christmas in less than four weeks. But then the massive fall of snow this last weekend changed that feeling!

We are all hopefully looking forward to a more “normal” Christmas this year. But perhaps the very different Christmas we had last year will help each of us to focus more thoughtfully on what Christmas is really all about?

Aside from the food and presents, I really enjoy singing Christmas Carols and listening to the familiar Christmas readings, which highlight God’s plan unfolding through history. Isaiah 9 is one of these great readings, written some 700 years before the birth of Jesus and foretelling his birth.

Beginning at v2…

The people walking in darkness
have seen a great light

…and continuing at v6…

For unto us a child is born
For to us a son is given
and the government will be upon his shoulders
and he will be called

Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

“Wonderful Counsellor” is a title that we don’t think so much about and yet is one of the names for our Lord Jesus. The term “Wonderful Counsellor” is only used in this passage and nowhere else in the Bible.

Some simple definitions

Counsellor – “a person trained to listen, to give guidance on personal (or psychological) problems”

Wonderful – “inspiring delight, pleasure, or admiration; extremely good; marvellous”

It feels daunting to try and create a simple definition for “Wonderful Counsellor”, however let us consider the Lord Jesus' character. He naturally listens and understands all of our problems and is the ultimate guide in all that we do. He does inspire delight and no one can give more help than he can, also he has left his Spirit with us.

The term “Counsellor” is mentioned in various Bible passages, probably one of the most familiar of these is in the Gospel of John, chapter 14v26, where Jesus says

But the Counsellor, the Holy Spirit whom the father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.

Jesus has put his Counsellor, the Spirit in us, he prompts us and guides along the right pathway.

Footprints

Many of us have probably seen the footsteps poster, very popular a few years ago, where a man recounts a dream of walking along a beach with the Lord and notices at the saddest times of his life there is only one set of footprints. He questions the Lord and asks, “I don’t understand why, when I needed you most, there is only one set of footprints”? The Lord replies:

During the times of suffering, when you only see one set of footprints, it was then I carried you.

I find that illustration, although very simple, so helpful and a useful prompt when I can so easily forget, the presence of the wise or Wonderful Counsellor in the busyness of a normal day.

At a different lesser level, but in a similar way, our ministry partners act as guides and counsellors to those suffering injustice in their lives, often these are people who can feel that life is not worth living. Our ministry partners support them and help them to have physical and spiritual hope and work towards living fulfilled lives.

Many of these situations, where our ministry partners make a difference, are profiled in our Freedom Gifts catalogue. We have also included some stories of how the gifts make a difference in individuals' lives. The story of Sarah* is recounted in the section on “Empowering Women and Girls” and how Sarah, who was an orphan, was helped by the counsellors at Wakisa Ministries in Uganda, after she became pregnant and was kicked out onto the streets. The Freedom Gift of 'Shelter and Counselling' provides help to people like Sarah. See more details of this, and read Sarah’s story here. Perhaps this Christmas you could give a gift of freedom that would help somebody in need, somebody like Sarah, to receive the shelter and counselling that they need?

In this season of Advent our prayer would be that all our readers would know the presence of the Wonderful Counsellor, the Lord Jesus in their lives. When you hear the reading of Isaiah 9, do remember how the birth of Jesus was foretold, all those years before.

May I take this opportunity to wish you a very Happy Christmas!

By Alan Butler, WorldShare’s Chief Executive

* not her real name, changed for security reasons

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