And the government shall be upon his shoulder... (Isaiah 9:6)

Why You Should Read Isaiah this Christmas

Sunday Scripture

Some of my favorite Christmas memories are embedded in our family’s practice of Advent, simple traditions of decorating, baking, crafting, listening, and singing, all in preparation for a heartfelt celebration of Jesus’s birthday. The focal point was the daily reading around the dining room table, the carols always slightly off key, and the content straight from prophecies about a Rescuer, a Shoot from the stump of Jesse, a Shepherd, and a Lamb.

Handel’s Messiah sends me scurrying for my Bible to trace the full redemptive story-line with its seventeen direct quotes from Isaiah’s prophecy. Of the sixteen writing prophets of the Old Testament, Isaiah is my favorite. Eminently quotable, his words show up in the New Testament over 65 times and his use of metaphor jolts me to a stop with his poignant images that sing and dance around grace for a people running headlong into rebellion. Tradition holds that he was sawn in two under the reign of King Manasseh at the end of a faithful ministry under four of Israel’s downward spiraling kings.

I wonder what emotional release Isaiah experienced as he wrote this well-loved verse:

For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
    and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Isaiah 9:6

With every king more corrupt than the one before, Isaiah condemned the nation’s slippage into idolatry and empty ritual. He foretold the Babylonian captivity and watched while the unraveling progressed. Even so, he wrote about redemption and grace, about a Son who would take the government upon his own shoulder.

We don’t know how much of the big picture Isaiah held in his mind’s camera as he dribbled clues for us from the end of his prophetic pen. Given our own present-day struggle to rightly divide his prophetic foreshortening and to faithfully sort out the already from the not yet, I would imagine that God’s remarkable fulfillment of Isaiah’s words in the prophetic record through Incarnation, Crucifixion, Resurrection, and Ascension would have been mind-blowing to the prophet, even from heaven’s vantage point!

This year, I am taking on a reading project for Advent that has been in my heart for a number of years. I will be reading through the book of Isaiah in twenty-five days, starting on December 1 and finishing on Christmas Eve. I’ve borrowed the idea and the reading schedule from Tony Reinke who says,

Isaiah tells the boisterous story of international political upheaval–the stunning prequel to Bethlehem. Nothing will deepen your appreciation for the Incarnation, nothing will better help you enjoy Christ, and all that he is for you, if you understand the global setting that anticipated, and demanded, his birth. It’s been called the Fifth gospel for good reason because along with Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John it’s a book about the Messiah, not merely in his birth, but in the whole of his world.”

I am looking forward to Isaiah’s reminder that God is the sovereign center of the universe, that he is beyond explanation, but worthy of my worship–all of it.

Isaiah wrote about redemption and grace, about a Son who would take the government upon his own shoulder. Join me for a journey through Isaiah this Advent season.

I hope you’ll join me for this Advent journey through the book of Isaiah. Lord willing, I will be posting here on Wednesdays and Sundays until Christmas, sharing landmarks and insights from Isaiah’s writing that are just too good to keep to myself.

I look forward to hearing from you as well. Click here to download the reading schedule and join the journey through Isaiah!

Unto us he is born!

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Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

67 thoughts on “Why You Should Read Isaiah this Christmas”

  1. As it happens, I am finished reading through Isaiah as of tonight. You are right – it is a good book to read to prepare us for the coming of Christ. What a wonderful story of sin and redemption. I did not know the story about the prophet’s death. Thank you for teaching me something this morning (as always), Michele.

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  2. I would gladly join with you, Michele, but have committed to another Advent study this year. With Joanne above, I’ll look forward to your posts. You’ve already taught me several facts about Isaiah and his book that I didn’t know (or, at my age, didn’t remember!). For example, I didn’t know he is quoted 65 times in the New Testament, or that his book of prophecy is called the Fifth Gospel. No doubt you’ll have much more worthwhile information and inspiration for us in the coming weeks until Christmas Eve.

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  3. Wonderful idea, and I downloaded your reading schedule and retweeted your page. Thank you as I was looking for what to read this year for my daily devotionals.. Any time for remembering the Bible readings is special, but always love the Advent season. A savior is born….praises.

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  4. Michele,
    Considering that roughly 30% of the Bible is prophetic scripture, God does a lot of foreshadowing! I can’t even fathom being Isaish and being given words that would change the course of spiritual faith and history. So awesome to read the before (prophecy) and the after (fullfillment) as we head toward Christmas this Advent season.
    Blessings,
    Bev xx

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  5. I started studying Isaiah two months ago…and I’m up to chapter 15 ;). Isaiah is a beautiful book, and so replete with hope (and a lot more destruction than I had first imagined).

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  6. What a great idea Michele! Isaiah is so rich in meaning. I remember the first time I actually studied it in depth. I was blown away with all he teaches. I hope your Advent study blesses your holidays! Thank you for sharing with us!

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  7. Isaiah is one of my favorite books of the Bible but I really haven’t studied the life of Isaiah all that much. Your brief intro into his life, or more precisely death, intrigue me, Michele! Thanks for always giving us much to mull over and meditate on, especially during Advent!

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  8. Michele, love your post and idea about reading Isaiah at Christmas. I learned years ago that the book of Isaiah, (66 chapters) is the Bible in miniature. What a great book to reflection upon at Christmas! Thank you!!

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  9. I had to read this post. This time last year I had decided that I would read through Isaiah, one chapter at a time for the beginning of 2020. I faltered and never made it, I even invested in two trusted commentaries on Isaiah to give me some depth. I printed the schedule you provided, though i don’t know if I will start now, or still wait until January 1st. But your post was a good reminder. I even considered making “Isaiah” my Word of the Year, for 2021, though I am not sure how that would work. Thanks and blessings, Michele

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    1. Wow, that’s an amazing story, Michele, and I hope you find your way back to Isaiah. I always forget how easy it is to get bogged down in the sadness and woe during the first 39 chapters, but , just like our Bibles, the 39 books of the OT set the stage for the 27 books of grace that comprise the NT.

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  10. Michele, I’ve never thought about Isaiah being the fifth gospel. 🙂 Isaiah does talk a lot about the coming of Jesus. I used to be intimidated by this book, but now, each time I read it I discover new nuggets within his words. I think the idea of reading Isaiah through the Advent season is a powerful way to prepare hearts for celebrating the coming of our Messiah.

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  11. I mean, the whole Bible is the story of Jesus – so I love looking at Christmas with new eyes & a new way of looking at it 🙂

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  12. Thanks for your awesome encouragement to see the Nativity from the Old Testament. I will be reading along, too!

    It’s great to see your link at ‘My Corner of the World’ this week!

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  13. I love this idea! I’ve always read Advent devotionals or the book of Luke for Advent. This, however, has me quite excited to uncover new truths for the Christmas season. Thank you! I’ve downloaded it and will get caught up 🙂

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  14. i always make a point of listening to The Messiah every Christmas. Great idea to read Isaiah. Had not thought about doing that. I wrote this week on “Comfort, ye my people”

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  15. I like the idea of your reading advent schedule. The social and political upheaval is a fascinating back drop for Jesus’ birth and gives extra significance to his life and death. Thanks for linking up with #dreamteamlinky

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  16. Thanks so much for linking up with me at the #FaithAndWorshipChristianWeekend 12, open until December 7 at 12:05 am. Shared on social media.

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  17. I always say I live in the book of John because I can read about His love, but Isaiah is also so important to me especially chapter 53, the advent names are a blessing too, what a wonderful Prince of Peace. A great reading along with Luke 2. Thanks, Michelle, Merry Christmas.

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  18. ********************************************************
    Thank you for sharing at #OverTheMoon. Pinned and shared. Have a lovely week. I hope to see you at next week’s party too! Please stay safe and healthy. Come party with us at Over The Moon! Catapult your content Over The Moon! @marilyn_lesniak @EclecticRedBarn
    ********************************************************

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  19. I love this idea! I already have two Advent devotionals, plus my Bible reading plan for the year, so I doubt I’ll be able to fit this in. But I love the idea!

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  20. Thank you so much for sharing the reading schedule and for sharing your own thoughts about reading through Isaiah, Michele. What a good idea for preparing our hearts! We usually attend the performance of Messiah at Duke Chapel, which of course was cancelled this year. . . I need to join you in reading through Isaiah myself!

    As always, many thanks for joining the Grace at Home party at Imparting Grace. I’m featuring you this week!

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