ISAIAH 7:10-14 | ROMANS 1:1-7 | MATTHEW 1:18-24
Our Christmas reflection begins a few days early as we ponder the scripture readings for the last Sunday of Advent. We begin by listening to the most famous prophecy in the Old Testament.
At a time of grave national crisis, as kings were uniting to wage war against Judah’s king Ahaz, Isaiah delivered these words of hope to him. “The Lord himself will give you this sign: the virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall name him Emmanuel.”
Isaiah was speaking to the dire situation Ahaz was facing, but at the same time, his prophecy was peering into the future. In today’s gospel, Matthew incorporates this prophecy into his infancy narrative that begins, like the story of King Ahaz, with a crisis.
Joseph had discovered that his betrothed was pregnant. He had decided to quietly dissolve the engagement until he had a dream. In the dream an angel explained to him that he and Mary were part of a divine intervention that was beginning to unfold through the working of the Holy Spirit.
Mary would give birth to a son who was to be named Jesus, Joshua in Hebrew, a name that focused his destiny. Joshua means: to deliver – to rescue – to save. He would be the long-awaited savior, a military leader.
Matthew then quoted Isaiah’s prophecy but implied a radically new interpretation. The child would be named Emmanuel, “which means ‘God is with us.’” For King Ahaz the child that was to be born would be supported by God’s power to rescue Judah from invading armies. Matthew declared that, at the very moment Joseph heard the angel’s message, Isaiah’s prophecy had come to fulfillment. This child named Jesus is literally “God with us!”
Lord Jesus, with you at our side we can take up the work
of establishing your kingdom here, on earth.
Give us courage and perseverance
we will need to let your light shine and your love reign.