Perhaps you hear the word 'counsellor' and you think of a professional person - a person who’s paid to counsel people. And counsellors can of course be professional, but counsellors can also be personal. We can be counselled by classmates or colleagues, or by family or friends. And a good counsellor is a person who does at least three things: (1) they listen well, (2) they understand, and (3) they speak wisely. And when it comes to Jesus Christ - if you read the accounts of his life - you’ll see that Jesus listens well, understands, and speaks wisely.
Jesus really listens well. We’re told that when he was a twelve year old boy he sat among the teachers in the temple courts listening to them and asking them questions (Luke 2:46).. I don’t know many twelve year old boys that really listen to their teachers - but Jesus did! And as a man, Jesus is always asking people questions. Sometimes they’re rhetorical questions but sometimes they’re not. And Jesus asks people questions because he’s genuinely interested in their answers.
Jesus also - if you read the accounts of his life - spends a lot of time eating and drinking with people. Sometimes it feels like he’s going from one meal to the next! And a lot of the time what Jesus says at the meal table is in response to what he’s heard. Jesus really listens to what people are saying. In fact - on a number of occasions we’re told that Jesus even listens to what people are thinking!
Jesus listens well. And because he listens well, he understands people. And because he understands people, he speaks wisely. In fact Jesus speaks wisely about almost any topic you can think of: God - of course - but creation, law, forgiveness, angels, demons, eternal life, salvation, judgment, heaven, hell, faith, love, hope, truth grace and glory. But also gender, singleness, friendship, marriage, sex, adultery, divorce, family, children, work and rest. And justice, mercy, poverty, riches, money, possessions, generosity, power and authority. Equality and diversity. Racism. Jesus speaks about these topics too. And anger, lust, pride, greed, humility, gratitude, purity, self-control, hypocrisy, integrity, anxiety, depression, satisfaction, discontent, doubt, shame, guilt. Jesus speaks about these topics. And Jesus addresses all the taboo topics: religion, politics, death.
We all need counselling. We all need people to talk to. But if you’re confused about who God is, or who you are - or what humanity is - Jesus speaks words of wisdom to us. Or if you’re in a crisis - a physical, emotional, relational, spiritual crisis - Jesus speaks words of wisdom to us. And Jesus isn’t out to hurt us. He isn’t out to humiliate us. He offers help and hope and healing. Jesus isn’t just a good counsellor. He isn’t even just a great counsellor. He is the Wonderful Counsellor we all need.
Jesus listens well and speaks wisely. But think with me for a moment about this idea that Jesus understands people. You see - Jesus understands people - not just because he listened to them - but because he lived with them.
Imagine if you had a phone call from Queen Elizabeth II. She called you and said: ‘I really want to understand you.’ Now - she could then ask you some questions, and I’m sure the Queen is a good listener. If you talked to her on the phone for 20 minutes you might feel like she understands you better. But what if Queen Elizabeth called you and said: ‘Can I come and live with you for a few weeks?I’ll arrive tomorrow and I’ll leave in a month.’ You can’t really say no to the Queen and so the Queen arrives and you have a cup of tea with her. Every day she eats breakfast, lunch and dinner with you. She goes to school with you; she goes to work with you. She spends all the time she can with you. And when she finally leaves you feel like she understands you. She’s lived your life with you - she understands your personality, your problems, and your pain.
It’s one thing to listen to people but it’s another thing to live with people. And when Jesus Christ was born - which is what we celebrate at Christmas - God became man, to live with people like us. God the Son arrived. And he didn’t live with people for a few weeks - he lived with people for more than three decades. He was born as a baby - he grew up as a child, as a teenager, as a young adult. He lived as a man.
God put himself in our shoes. God put himself in our skin. And one of the reasons he did that was so that he could understand us. Jesus understands us - not just because he’s God - but because he’s also human.
Isaiah says - this baby boy will be a King. But when Jesus was born he wasn’t born in a palace. He was born into poverty. That’s one of the things we tend to miss in the Christmas story. King Jesus was born in a barn. And being born in a barn was no more common in the first-century than it is in the twenty-first century. No mother wants to give birth to her first baby - or her second, or third, or fourth baby - in a barn. Babies weren’t born in barns in the first-century for the same reason they’re not born in barns in the twenty-first century - barns are dirty, smelly places, and midwives don’t work there! Can you imagine Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, giving birth to Prince George in a barn - I don’t think so! But King Jesus was born in a barn.
Or I don’t know if you’ll set up a manger scene this Christmas? But if you do - if you want it to be authentic - don’t sprinkle it with spices like cinnamon and nutmeg. Smear it with dirt and dung. Jesus wasn’t born in a place that smelled delicious. He was born in a place that smelled disgusting. Jesus understands what it’s like to be born and raised in poverty.
Most of us weren’t born and raised in poverty but Jesus understands what it’s like to live our lives. He’s been here, he’s done this, he’s got the t-shirt. He understands busyness. He understands tiredness. He understands what it’s like to be in demand, or to be discouraged or disappointed. He understands being criticised. He understands being lonely. He understands being popular and unpopular. He understands having friends and enemies. He understands being loved and hated. Jesus Christ understands grief. He understands what it’s like to lose a loved one - what it’s like to weep at the graveside of a friend. He understands sadness and deep sorrow. He understands what it’s like to be betrayed by a friend, and then disowned and deserted by everyone else. Jesus understands heartache and humiliation. He understands fear. He understands pain and suffering. He experienced the worst things you can experience in life - and then he experienced an excruciating death. Jesus understands.
And it’s this that qualifies him to be the Wonderful Counsellor. Whatever you’ve experienced in life - whatever you are experiencing and whatever you will experience - Jesus Christ understands. God the Son put himself in your shoes. God the Son put himself in your skin so that he could understand you.
I don’t know how you’re feeling about Christmas. Maybe you can’t wait. Maybe you can’t wait for it to be over. Maybe Christmas is a happy time for you and your family but maybe it’s not. Or maybe this year it really won’t be. Maybe this year it will be a sad time. Or maybe you don’t have a family and Christmas is a struggle. Well, however you’re feeling about Christmas, Jesus understands. In fact, the message of Christmas is that God became man - the supreme being shrank himself down to become one of us. The Creator became a creature so that he could understand us.
That’s pretty unbelievable…