We know that Jesus taught and gave counsel like no one else. We know that he performed powerful miracles. But how can we imagine Jesus as the “Everlasting Father” that Isaiah’s prophecy mentions? It doesn’t seem to fit. Jesus is the second Person of the Blessed Trinity; he is the <i>Son</i> of God. He is not God the Father. Even Jesus told us to call God “Our Father”! So how can Jesus be the Everlasting Father?
This question illustrates the challenge that we often face when we look at Old Testament prophecies and apply them to Jesus. In our passage from Isaiah, for instance, the prophet is most likely celebrating the coronation of a new king in Jerusalem, Hezekiah. According to Isaiah, this new king, this “son” of the wicked King Ahaz, will deliver the people from darkness and bring them into the light of an era of peace and security. He will be like a father to them as he leads them with kindness and justice and fairness. That sounds a lot like Jesus, doesn’t it? And didn’t Jesus himself tell Thomas, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9)? So let’s take a closer look at how Jesus, the Son of God, can be like a father to us.
The Father of a New Life. Hippocrates has been called the father of Western medicine. Copernicus has been called the father of modern astronomy. Henry Roberts has been called the father of the personal computer. And Abraham is called the father of the people of Israel (Genesis 17:5). As different as all these people were, they had one thing in common: they were innovators who stood at the beginning of a new era in history.
In a similar way, Jesus is the greatest innovator of all. He is the father of a new covenant between God and humanity. More than anyone else, he stands at the beginning of a new era: the age of the Church.
Jesus is also the author of new life. He is the One who has made this life possible. He is the One who has inaugurated it and lived it most perfectly. The Letter to the Hebrews calls him the “leader” of our faith (Hebrews 12:2). St. Paul wrote that anyone who is “in Christ is a new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17). Even Jesus refers to his fatherly role when he calls the disciples his “children” (Mark 10:24; John 13:33).
A Father Who Provides. For thousands of years, fathers have been seen as the ones who provide for their families. Every father wants to make sure that his family has the food, education, and shelter they need to live comfortably. Every father wants to provide opportunities for his children to grow into successful members of society. Every father suffers over his children and stands behind them. Every father wants to provide his family with a strong and stable home. And, often reluctantly, every father knows that there are times when he must discipline his child.
Think of how Jesus demonstrates all of these fatherly attributes. For the past two thousand years, he has been providing his people with all the grace, protection, guidance, and love they need. Scripture tells us that in Christ we have nothing less than “redemption,” which is “the forgiveness of transgressions,” and we have this great gift “in accord with the riches of his grace that he lavished upon us” (Ephesians 1:7, 8). Jesus never seems to run out of supplies!
It is this abundance of grace that moved Paul to assure his readers, “God will fully supply whatever you need, in accord with his glorious riches in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19). If you have a need, go to Jesus, and ask him to help you. Believe that he has an unending supply of grace waiting for you. Go to him like a little child, and you will be blessed immeasurably (Matthew 19:14).
A Father Who Leads. Fathers will do most anything to help their children be happy, productive, and successful. Like a good father, Jesus has come to teach us how to find peace and happiness. He was born on Christmas Day so that he could lead us along the right path. In his teachings as well as in his example, he continues to urge us, “Do as I say and do as I do.”
And so Jesus asks us to love one another as he loves us. He expects us to forgive each other as he forgives us. He calls us to stick together as brothers and sisters in bad times as well as in good times. And perhaps most important, he asks us to care for those members of his family who, for whatever reason, cannot care for themselves.
A Father Who Is Constant. Let’s not forget that there is another word that makes up this title for Jesus. Isaiah spoke of an Everlasting Father. For Isaiah, that meant that the new king would lead his people into a bright future that would never grow dim. For us, it means that Jesus will never stop offering his care, his guidance, and his help. It’s just as the angel told Mary: “He will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end” (Luke 1:33).
A father will always love his children. No matter what his children do, even if their relationship is seriously strained, there is always a spark of love in a father’s heart. Fathers rejoice over their children’s success, and they suffer when their children suffer—no matter how old or young they are. The love of a father for his children never ends and never wavers. Neither does Jesus’ love for us fade.
A Father Who Forgives. Think of Jessie, a thirty-two-year-old woman who had had not one but two abortions. She was constantly plagued by guilt and shame. She kept going to Mass but never received Communion because she considered herself unworthy of God’s love and mercy. In a homily one Sunday, her pastor spoke about how Jesus always cares and provides for us, as a father does. He then shifted to talk about the mercy of Jesus. “No sin is too big for Jesus to forgive,” he said. At that moment, Jessie started to cry—right there in her pew!
After Mass, Jessie mustered the courage to ask her pastor to hear her confession. You know the outcome. She received the riches of Jesus’ mercy and healing and love—and not just in the confessional, but as she continued to pray and seek the Lord.
A Father Who Is Always with Us. Jesus will not like all of the decisions we make any more than a father will like all the decisions his children make. But he is still in our corner. He never stops loving us. It’s who we are that matters to him, not what we do. It’s his vision of who we can become that matters to him, not our vision of how unworthy we think we are.
So when you look at the child in the manger this Christmas, know that that you are looking at the One who will always guide you, teach you, and provide for you. He loves you as his own child.