Advent 1, Wednesday December 2, 2020
3 And the LORD said to Isaiah, “Go out to meet Ahaz, you and Shear-jashub your son, at the end of the conduit of the upper pool on the highway to the Washer’s Field. 4 And say to him, ‘Be careful, be quiet, do not fear, and do not let your heart be faint because of these two smoldering stumps of firebrands, at the fierce anger of Rezin and Syria and the son of Remaliah. 5 Because Syria, with Ephraim and the son of Remaliah, has devised evil against you, saying, 6 “Let us go up against Judah and terrify it, and let us conquer it for ourselves, and set up the son of Tabeel as king in the midst of it,” 7 thus says the Lord GOD: “‘It shall not stand, and it shall not come to pass. 8 For the head of Syria is Damascus, and the head of Damascus is Rezin. And within sixty-five years Ephraim will be shattered from being a people. 9 And the head of Ephraim is Samaria, and the head of Samaria is the son of Remaliah. If you are not firm in faith, you will not be firm at all.'” 10 Again the LORD spoke to Ahaz, 11 “Ask a sign of the LORD your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as Heaven.” 12 But Ahaz said, “I will not ask, and I will not put the LORD to the test.” 13 And he said, “Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary men, that you weary my God also? 14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.
18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit. 19 Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly. 20 But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. 21 “And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.” 22 So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: 23 “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.” 24 Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife, 25 and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son. And he called His name JESUS.
THE FIRST PETITION
Hallowed be thy name. What does this mean?
God’s name is certainly holy in itself, but we pray in this petition that it may be kept holy among us also.
How is God’s name kept holy?
God’s name is kept holy when the Word of God is taught in its truth and purity, and we, as the children of God, also lead holy lives according to it. Help us to do this, dear Father in heaven! But anyone who teaches or lives contrary to God’s Word profanes the name of God among us. Protect us from this, heavenly Father!
In the Name of Jesus.
What do you do when the Lord gives you a promise? A promise which saves you from trouble and gives you life?
King Ahaz was in some trouble. The threat against his kingdom was great.
He reigned as king in Jerusalem some 700 years before Jesus’ birth. Ahaz saw threating foreign powers at every side. And he doesn’t have the army to stop it. But the Lord sends his prophet Isaiah to Ahaz to tell him that the enemies would not destroy Jerusalem but that they themselves would be destroyed.
That’s good news, of course, but it’s also not easily believed. These foreign kings are much stronger. So to give Ahaz the comfort and confidence that Jerusalem would be kept safe, the Lord said to him,
“Ask a sign of the LORD your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as Heaven.”
We might think Ahaz would jump on this. Why not tell God to change the weather as a sign or to move the stars in the sky—take God up on his offer and have him do something to show that his promise is good? Isaiah 7:12:
But Ahaz said, “I will not ask, and I will not put the LORD to the test.”
That sounds pious, to not put the Lord to the test. But the problem is, it’s not putting the Lord to the test to do what the Lord tells you to do, and the Lord had told Ahaz to ask for himself a sign.
The Lord is giving a promise. He’s giving a gift to Ahaz, and the gift included doing something to confirm the gift, to give Ahaz and Jerusalem the confidence that the Lord was with them even when events were dire.
If Ahaz asks the Lord to do a sign as the Lord had told him to do, that would mean that the Lord is right there in the mix of things with Jerusalem, that the Lord is close and has included himself in Israel’s daily life. It seems better, Ahaz must think, to keep the Lord distant. That’s safer. Israel has sinned and the Lord is holy—maybe we don’t want the Lord too close to us, Ahaz must’ve thought. Isaiah 7:12:
Ahaz said [to the Lord], “I will not ask, and I will not put the LORD to the test.”
But the Lord will not be kept a long way off. He will not stay distant from the people he loves. The Lord said to Ahaz,
“Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary men, that you weary my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”
And there it is, the promise of a Savior. It’s a strange sign to give to King Ahaz, who lived 700 years before the birth of Jesus. But there it is, the promise of a Savior.
The promise had already been given to Adam and Eve back in the Garden, and to Abraham and others, but here it is given anew, given again as we are approaching the generation of when the Savior will actually be born.
This Savior will be given by the Lord himself; this Savior will be brought forth in a miraculous birth given a Virgin. And this Savior will be known as Immanuel, which means, God-with-us.
The prophet Isaiah first had us looking at Ahaz, a scared king waiting for the destruction of his city. But Isaiah moves us from that to the promise of God coming in the flesh. The salvation is bigger than just Ahaz and his Jerusalem.
This salvation is God himself coming in the flesh to be God-with-us. God-with-us to save us, to take our sin upon himself—God-with-us to die for us.
So in Advent, the Church hears our Lord’s word preparing us for the Christ-child. This is the Savior foretold in all the generations of Israel. He’s the one to release the guilt, to take away the sin, to cover the shame—he God-with-us. His Father is the Father in Heaven, he mother, a virgin here on Earth.
Along with Ahaz, we are tempted to see him as far off, to keep him at arm’s length, untouched by our day-to-day struggles. But his name is Immanuel—God-with-us. He became God-with-us by birth from the Virgin Mary. He became God-with-us to each of us by joining us to himself in Baptism.
It’s all by promise. He is with us in our sin, to forgive. With us in shame, to give us his honor. With us in our fear, to give us the promise of life.
Good to his promise, he is with us in our lives, in our families, restoring us, reconciling us to one another, always our God. It’s his Name, Immanuel.
In the Name of Jesus.