Isaiah 7:10-16 & Matthew 1:18-25

 

Dear Riverview Family,

On this 4th Sunday of Advent, let us think about “LOVE.”  How do you love your God, your family, your neighbors, and fellow church members?  How about those people who are not nice to you?  How do you love yourself?  The second greatest commandment is to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.  Do we love these people as Christ has loved us?  If not, are we willing to try?  Let us explore today’s text; first, the Gospel of Matthew and then the book of Isaiah.

In Matthew’s Gospel, we can see how Joseph expressed his love for Mary.   Matthew says in verse 19, “Her husband Joseph, being a rightesous man and unwilling to dismiss her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly.”  According to Jewish marriage custom, there were three stages.  They are engagement, betrothal and marriage.  Joseph and Mary were in the stage of betrothal.  They were legally husband and wife in this stage, but were not allowed to live together for one year until they finish their wedding ceremony.  The marriage would be completed when the groom take his wife to his own home.  During this time, the bride remain in her father’s house.  So the news about Mary’s pregnancy was not a good news to Joseph, but it was a scandal we might hear from the today’s News Media.  This was not the type of news Joseph wanted to hear.  But Joseph loved Mary so much and also being a righteous man, did not want to humiliate Mary with a public divorce proclaiming her adultery.

While Joseph was thinking about this, the angel basically said, “I know this is not what you expected, Joseph, but it is going to be OK.  Just accept the situation.  God is about to do something wonderful, despite the fact that according to Jewish custom and Law, your fiance Mary is in socially unacceptable situation.” 

How about us?  In the midst of all our less than perfect Christmas, God has been doing something new and something wonderful!  For examples, I don’t know about you, the Christmas tree in my house is not quiet perfect as I want it to be.  In fact, we are going to throw it away when this year’s Christmas is over.   Many of our life circumstances are not as perfect as we want them to be.   Amid less than perfect picture Christmas or life’s circumstance, God does something new and beautiful!    A famous southern gospel singer and songwriter, Bill Gaither wrote this song called, Something Beautiful.
Something beautiful, something good
All my confusion He understood
All I had to offer Him was brokenness and strife
But he made something beautiful of my life

If there ever were dreams
That were lofty and noble
They were my dreams at the start
And hope for life’s best were the hopes
That I harbor down deep in my heart
But my dreams turned to ashes
And my castles all crumbled, my fortune turned to loss
So I wrapped it all in the rags of my life
And laid it at the cross.

Something beautiful, something good
All my confusion He understood
All I had to offer Him was brokenness and strife
But he made something beautiful of my life

 

Historical Background and Different Perspective from Isaiah 7

During B.C. 734 and 733,  the king of Northern Israel and the nation of Aram attempted to invade Jerusalem and replace king Ahaz who was the king of Judah at that time.  King Ahaz and the people of Judah were terrified at the attack which threatens not only the survival of the nation, butalso the promise that a descendant of David would always reign in Jerusalem.

In this time of national crisis, God sends prophet Isaiah to reassure Ahaz of divine protection.  Prophet Isaiah told king Ahaz to ask God for a sign, but Ahaz refused to do so.  He said, “I will not put the Lord to the test.”  Although it sounded like words of faith, but it was actually a sign of his lack of faith.  Although God wanted him to trust and depend on God alone, he wanted to  to depend on the military power of Assyria to fight against the joint armies of Israel and the nation of Aram.  Ahaz has not demonstrated the faith that Isaiah had demanded.   Like many people in today’s world who rather depend on their money, experiences, and knowledge, Ahaz also chose to depend on something tangible such as the military power of the Assyria.   Their history teaches us that the nation of Judah were actually destroyed by the Assyria–the country they had counted on to receive help.  Likewise, if we continue to depend on our money,  knowledge and experience instead of God, we may also be destroyed by all of these.

Regardless of King Ahaz’s lack of faith, the Lord gave him a sign anyway.  Isaiah said in verse 13-14, “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 Emmanuel.”  Isaiah expressed how Ahaz’s lack of faith and disobedience would break his heart as well as God’s heart.  The sign and the promise were given to Ahaz regardless of his lack of faith and disobedience.  Hope for a new and great leader was good news to the people of Judah who were yearning for a better future.  We are also living in a complicated times politically, socially, economically and morally.  So the coming of this new born baby who someday will become a great leader can still be good news for us!  He will come regardless of our lack of faith and vulnerability.  He will come and save us from all that is violent and destructive.  He will come to be with us, “Emmanuel.”  This promise opens up the gap between what today’s world is and what it ought to be.

On this 4th Sunday of Advent, we are reminded that living into a future that has not yet come be is living into the unexpected.  We are called to face the vulnerabilities of time and place.   To us individually and also as a church, Isaiah gives us a sign.  This sign is a new born baby, called Emmanuel.  Surely, if God is with us, it will be ok no matter what happens or no matter where we go.  Jesus the risen Lord has also promised in Matthew 28, “I will be with you to the end of the ages.”  So whenever we sing, “O Come, O Come, Immanuel,” we should remeber God’s promise to be with us and God’s calling for us to living into the uncertain future, not with fear and doubt, but with hope, peace, and trust.

Is your Christmas less than perfect this year?  Then I’d like to encourage you to remember what the angel said to Joseph, “Do not be afraid . . . Accept your circumstance!  It’s going to be all right even if you don’t understand everything . . . God is about to do some new and something wonderful . . . LOOK! The virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him, Emmanuel’ which means “God is with us.”  Let us pray.