Advent Special 2010, part IV

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We invite you to meditate privately on each text before reading the reflections that follow.
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Isaiah 7:10-14 (New American Standard Bible)

Then the LORD spoke again to Ahaz, saying, "Ask a sign for yourself from the LORD your God; make it deep as Sheol or high as heaven." But Ahaz said, "I will not ask, nor will I test the LORD!" Then he said, "Listen now, O house of David! Is it too slight a thing for you to try the patience of men, that you will try the patience of my God as well? "Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel.

Reflection by Dave Thomas

Several things come to mind by reflecting on this passage. First and foremost, it is a harbinger promise of Immanuel, the One who ties together again God and humans, who is the bridge over the chasm that has materialized in consequence of sin. To those who believe, there are few promises of greater import. Here is indication that God is not caught by surprise in the matter of sin, nor is He unprepared. “From the foundation of the world,” this provision has been prepared and is being implemented incrementally along the way. What only remains is the great and final reunion. In these verses we are reminded of that.

There is also juxtaposition here between the reticence of humans and the generosity of God. Ahaz was unwilling to ask of the LORD because he viewed it as testing of the LORD. In this he seems to be in the minority, for so many there are of us who want signs and wonders, who are not reticent to ask for them, who, indeed, often determine our walk with God by them. But not Ahaz. For reasons unknown, he refused to ask of God for a sign. In contrast to his reluctance is the generosity of God as voiced through the prophet, that he might ask anything within an expansive range, “deep as Sheol or high as heaven!” Ahaz might not ask, but God will give, anyway, a sign. And it will not weary God. Even by asking, mortals cannot weary God. Apparently, even in our petulance we cannot weary God. What comfort and assurance, that God knows our circumstances and frames and accommodates His doings to our needs even to the point of sending assurances when they are otherwise eschewed.
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Romans 1:1-7 (from New International Version)

Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God- the gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures regarding his Son, who as to his human nature was a descendant of David, and who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord. Through him and for his name's sake, we received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith. And you also are among those who are called to belong to Jesus Christ.
To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints:
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.

Reflection by Zane Yi

Gracious God,

Help us understand the paradox of the good news—the good news about the freedom that comes from obedience, the authenticity that comes from surrender, and the life that comes from dying.

Forgive us for trying to make it something else—an excuse to go our own way.
Show us Jesus and his Way.

And give us the desire and ability to obey.
Grant us faith.

Lord, grant us your peace.

Amen.
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Matthew 1:18-24 (Contemporary English Version)

This is how Jesus Christ was born. A young woman named Mary was engaged to Joseph from King David's family. But before they were married, she learned that she was going to have a baby by God's Holy Spirit. Joseph was a good man and did not want to embarrass Mary in front of everyone. So he decided to quietly call off the wedding. While Joseph was thinking about this, an angel from the Lord came to him in a dream. The angel said, "Joseph, the baby that Mary will have is from the Holy Spirit. Go ahead and marry her. Then after her baby is born, name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins." So the Lord's promise came true, just as the prophet had said, "A virgin will have a baby boy, and he will be called Immanuel," which means "God is with us." After Joseph woke up, he and Mary were soon married, just as the Lord's angel had told him to do.

Reflection by Diane Forsyth

“Joseph, son of David…”

That’s how Heaven saw Joseph; that’s how Heaven wanted Joseph to see himself. Joseph, you are royalty. In you royalty and servanthood combine; destiny and invisibility unite.
Joseph, you are the earthly father Heaven needs to guide and provide for God’s Son. Joseph, tell Jesus—show Jesus—about being a royal servant. Heaven honors you; Heaven is relying on you, Joseph. Jesus relies on you, and will forever honor you, and His mother, and His heavenly Father.

Whether or not the angel actually said those things to Joseph, the story reveals them. One thing the angel did say was, “Joseph, son of David,” not “Joseph, son of Jacob.” The angel’s greeting identifies Joseph with, connects him most closely to, his royal father David. Imagine how this greeting sounded to Joseph, what it reminded him of, what it prepared him for, and how it purified his humility.

Joseph you embody royalty and servanthood. Carry this paradox with honor. You are the earthly father for God’s Son.

Abraham

David

Joseph

destiny
might
humility

People of God

not rejecting
not rejected by
but eternally fulfilled in
this Jesus
born to you
for the world

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Dave Thomas is Dean of the School of Theology at Walla Walla University.

Zane Yi is a Ph.D. candidate in Philosophy at Fordham University.

Diane Forsyth is a freelance writer and founder of Charistis ministries: www.charistis.org

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