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Why Is "Unto Us a Child Is Born" Such a Popular Scripture and Song Phrase?

Why Is "Unto Us a Child Is Born" Such a Popular Scripture and Song Phrase?

Seven-hundred years after the prophet Isaiah announced the birth of the Messiah, Jesus the Christ child came to earth, fully human and fully divine. Jesus crushed mathematical odds with the number of prophecies His birth in Bethlehem fulfilled. Though a war outside of this world wages for our attention, Christ’s glorious entrance into it sings out of Handel’s composition of “Unto Us a Child is Born.” The popularly quoted verse from Isiah is a powerful holy mic drop! Scripture promises, there is power in Jesus’ name. Against all odds and despite endless attempts to dispute and discredit Christ as the Messiah, the Truth repetitively resounds through our earbuds, satellite radios and blue tooth speakers every Christmas. 

Where Does the Bible Mention "Unto Us a Child Is Born”?

“For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government will be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6 ESV

Isaiah’s prophecy served as guidance and encouragement the remnant of God’s people left in exile and is the most cited prophetic book of the New Testament. “The birth of a son was viewed as a matter of rejoicing in ordinary circumstances,” the NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible notes, “Having a royal son to assume the throne was even more important.” Jesus, the Son of the One True God, was undoubtedly the most significant birth on earth!  

In Handel’s composition of “Unto Us a Child is Born,” four names of Christ quoted from Isaiah 9:6 are sung out in repetition: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace. Each reveals a piece of the Messiah’s character and purpose. Wonderful, meaning “extraordinary to the point of being miraculous,” and Counselor conveying a “divine miraculous character that would not be possible through simply human devices.Mighty God, “so powerful so as to be able to absorb all evil and defeat it,” and Everlasting Father, indicating that He is the author and creator of time. His reign would be characterized by peace. (quotes via Moody Bible Commentary) 

In Old Testament times, names carried powerful and significant meaning. They were often changed when someone’s status changed to a royal ruler. Longer names could tell stories in and of themselves. Isaiah 9:6 spoke directly to the heart of its ancient audience and teaches us more about the character of our great God and our Savior, Jesus. “Nobody in the history of the world has foreknown and foretold and carried out his life and death and resurrection the way Jesus did,” says John Piper of

Where Are the Other Prophecies of Jesus in the Old Testament?

There are over 300 prophecies about Jesus that He fulfilled in his life, death, and resurrection. Isaiah is one of the four major prophetic books, the others being Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Daniel. Old Testament Messianic prophecies are also found in Micah, Deuteronomy, Psalms, Zechariah, and Numbers. In the Gospel’s of Matthew and Luke, the fulfillment of Jesus’ prophesied genealogy is fulfilled! “Jesus was from the line of Abraham (Genesis 12:3), and Isaac (Genesis 17:21, Genesis 26:4), Jacob (Genesis 28:14), Judah (Genesis 49:8-12), Jesse (Isaiah 11:1), and David (Isaiah 9:7, Jeremiah 23:5),” wrote Debbie McDaniel for, “We see the entire fulfillment of Christ’s line of genealogy through Matthew 1:1-17 and Luke 1.

Christmas reminds us of Christ’s birth on earth, yet Jesus is present on every page of Scripture. “All Scriptures are about Jesus Christ,” wrote John Piper, “even where there is no explicit prediction.” Popular Christmas carols and hymns taken from and inspired by Scripture serve as anthems in worship to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. “We should see Jesus in all of Scripture,” Kevin DeYoung contributed to TGC, “We should read the end in the light of the beginning and the beginning in view of the end.”  

What Song Is the Phrase "Unto Us a Child Is Born" In?

George Frideric Handel wrote The Messiah, within which is the well-known chorus, “For Unto Us a Child is Born,” in 1741. “A musical rite of the holiday season,” reports, “the Baroque-era oratorio still awes listeners 250 years after the composer’s death.” An oratorio is “an extended music composition with a text more or less dramatic in character and usually based upon a religious theme, for solo voices, chorus, and orchestra, and performed without action costume, and scenery.” It was a more affordable production that allowed Handel more artistic freedom. The Baroque Era of 17th century Europe was extravagantly ornate.

Handel wrote The Messiah, rumored to be divinely inspired, in a few weeks’ time. Though originally written for Easter, the first section is entirely focused on the birth of Jesus Christ, making it a perfect fit for a Christmas tradition. The famous “Hallelujah Chorus” is also a part of The Messiah! Handel’s life was riddled with trials and strongholds like any other, but the evidence of his faith lies in the way he chose to give honor to God with his great musical talent.

“For Unto Us a Child is Born,” has been re-released and covered by multiple artists over the years, and is frequently paired in compilation with “Joy to the World.” The recognizable phrase has been included in many original Christmas songs, such as Matt Maher and Christ Tomlin’s inclusion of the popularly quoted verse from Isaiah in their song, “He Shall Reign Forevermore.”  

Why Is This Phrase Still So Popular at Christmastime?

The premiere of The Messiah was so anticipated, the crowd was encouraged to leave their hoop skirts and swords at home! It seems from its release, the popularity of Handel’s music drew a crowd. But the over-arching message in his composition seems to be what sustains its firm place in the tradition of the Christmas season. Handel attempted to connect human emotion and feelings of faith through his gift to compose music.  

Even agnostics sing out verses of Scripture through traditional carols and hymns that have become a part of our culture and heritage. Music is an expression many of us relate to and rely on for words we cannot muster to properly express how we feel. Over time, talented musicians have been able to put into words what others cannot, yet we can all relate to the lyrics and emotion a song produces. Our purposeful God, and the powerful Truth of His world, are timeless and everlasting. There’s something much bigger at work than talented compositions and well put together words. “For unto us a child is born,” remains a popular Christmas tradition because our good and gracious God is faithful to remind us of the reason for the season. 

The world needs the hope Christ gives. There is a slow and still calling in every heart towards the presence of God, found only through salvation in His Son. Something stirs in us when we here the truth of Scripture proclaimed in hymns and carols. “For unto us a child is born,” sung out in grandiose worship at Christmastime and etched on every heart, signifies the greatest act of love of all time. In human history, there has never been nor will be a greater gift given to humanity than God of His one and only Son. He came to walk among us and die so that we may live life to the full. He is working all things for good and will eventually set all things right. For every believer, the dramatic overture in which Handel expressed the truth of God’s Word is echoed in the heart of every believer who, because of Christ’s birth on earth, will spend eternity with Him in heaven.

A Prayer for Remembering Christ's Birth


In this season full of distraction, You are perhaps more evident than ever before. Breaking through the commercialism is the unchanging and everlasting truth of Your Word. Jesus was born on earth, and His grand entrance into our atmosphere signified the unexplainable way in which You love us. Working all things for good, You are our Provider and Sustainer. Jesus, our Savior, this Christmas let the notes and anthems we sing resonate with us more than ever before. Through the thick fog of this world, help us to focus on You, the light in the dark. Wonderful Counselor. Mighty God. Everlasting Father. Prince of Peace. Jesus, let the power of Your name reign over our lives, this Christmas and always.

In Jesus’ Name, 


Photo credit: ©GettyImages/Mary981

Meg Bucher 2022 headshotMeg writes about everyday life within the love of Christ. Join her on the journey as she launches her new site Joy Overflowing, or join her longstanding community at Sunny&80. She is also the author of “Friends with Everyone, Friendship within the Love of Christ,” “Surface, Unlocking the Gift of Sensitivity,” “Glory Up, The Everyday Pursuit of Praise,” “Home, Finding Our Identity in Christ,” and "Sent, Faith in Motion (October 2023 release). She earned a Marketing/PR degree from Ashland University but stepped out of the business world to stay home and raise her two daughters …which led her to pursue her writing passion. A contributing writer for Salem Media since 2016, Meg is now thrilled to be a part of the editorial team as the Editor of Always active in her community and the local church, Meg also leads Bible study and serves as a leader for teen girls.