Fourth Sunday of Advent, Year A   Leave a comment

Above:  King Ahaz

Emmanuel:  God is With Us, and We Need to Be With God

DECEMBER 22, 2013

DECEMBER 18, 2016

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Isaiah 7:10-16 (New Revised Standard Version):

The LORD spoke to Ahaz, saying,

Ask a sign of the LORD your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven.

But Ahaz said,

I will not ask, and I will not put the LORD to the test.

Then Isaiah said:

Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary mortals, that you weary my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel. He shall eat curds and honey by the time he knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good. For before the child knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land before whose two kings you are in dread will be deserted.

Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19 (New Revised Standard Version):

Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel,

you who lead Joseph like a flock!

You who are enthroned upon the cherubim, shine forth

before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh.

Stir up your might,

and come to save us!

Restore us, O God;

let your face shine, that we may be saved.

O LORD God of hosts,

how long will you be angry with your people’s prayers?

You have fed them with the bread of tears,

and given them tears to drink in full measure.

You make us the scorn of our neighbors;

our enemies laugh among themselves.

Restore us, O God of hosts;

let your face sine, that we may be saved.

But let your hand be upon the one at your right hand,

the one whom you made strong for yourself.

Then we will never turn back from you;

give us life, and we will call on your name.

Restore us, O LORD God of hosts;

let your face shine, that we may be saved.

Romans 1:1-7 (New Revised Standard Version):

Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy scriptures, the gospel concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be Son of God with power according to the spirit of holiness by resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for the sake of his name, including yourselves who are called to belong to Jesus Christ,

To all God’s beloved in Rome, who are called to be saints:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Matthew 1:18-25 (New Revised Standard Version):

Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said,

Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet:

“Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,

and they shall name him Emmanuel,”

which means,

“God is with us.”

When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus.

The Collect:

Purify our conscience, Almighty God, by your daily visitation, that your Son Jesus Christ, at his coming, may find in us a mansion prepared for himself; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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Here is the historical background of the reading from Isaiah:

The Kings of Aram (or Syria) and Israel (the northern Hebrew kingdom) planned to create an alliance of states to oppose the Assyrian Empire, a major power in 735 B.C.E.  When King Ahaz of Judah did not join this effort the forces of Aram and Israel attempted to overthrow him and to place a more compliant monarch on the throne.  This situation concerned Ahaz (understandably so), and he turned to Assyria, not God, for protection.  Ahaz put on airs of righteousness, making a show of not asking God for a sign.  Yet, as Isaiah stated, God would send a sign anyway.  An almah, or young woman of marriageable age (married or not, virgin or not left undefined) would give birth to a healthy baby boy, and the kingdom would be out of immediate danger by the time the child could able to “reject the bad and choose the good.”

Thus the birth of a child became a sign of deliverance from certain death.

Confronting and dealing with Assyria was foolish.  The Assyrian Empire conquered Aram, deprived Israel of much territory, and made Judah a dependency.  Trusting in God would have been a better choice.

That is a timeless lesson.

KRT

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