This passage occurs in the Narrative Lectionary, Year 4, most recently Nov 2013. It is also the Old Testament passage for Christmas in the RCL.
Summary: The inclusion of this passage at this particular juncture, it seems, is designed to have us read Isaiah within its historical context. (Which probably means reading Isaiah 8, yuck). Ultimately, I think reading within the broadest narrative is the only way to intepret it. Matthew sees this passage as prophetic about Jesus; therefore, even if Isaiah didn't have this fully in mind (a debatable point) we don't have to debate whether it ultimately referred to Jesus. Matthew said so. QED. The historical context us, reminds us that God, even in the midst of his wrath, still is a God of mercy, whose proper and ultimate aims are life and joy, not death and destruction. In terms of the Hebrew, I have focused on vs. 1 and 2 and the names given to Jesus.
Note: I am actually preaching this week on Isaiah 6, so I apologize for the shorter blog post.
Key Words focusing on Isaiah 9:1-2:
צלמות ("tsalmwet", "deep death like darkness") This word shows up in Psalm 23:4. I wonder if this is a good word to describe what we saw in the recent Typhoon in the Philippines. The people walking in the land of shadowy death. We know from Scripture that Christ is present in this suffering to.
פהא ("pele", "wonder") In the English language, wonderful is a word used by grandmothers to describe the artwork of their grandchildren. Wonder in the Bible means God is doing something, like 7 wonders of the world, or like God making barren Sarah pregnant or the 10 plagues.
יועצ (yo-atz, "counselor", technically a verbal noun) The NET couragously and creatively translates this as "strategist." While I think the captures the military nature of the passage, but doesn't seem completely fair to the word, which means more simply advisor. I think it also becomes highly probelmatic for us to see Jesus as our strategist rather than our advisor. A strategist figures out how we can achieve our aims; a counselor or advisor directs us. Nothing in this section describes this baby as one who is part of our agenda and not the other way around.
אביעד ("aveeyad", "eternal father") This is quite a title for a baby. This is and the title of mighty God make me really wonder how Isaiah could actually not be imputing divinity to the baby. I also wonder how we reconcile the idea of Jesus being father.
שלומ(shalom, "peace") Peace here means something far more than truce. It means wholeness and restored relationship. In Hebrew, peace entails righteousness, something that Christ brings about. This is the last name, the last word, peace, really, wholeness.