Saturday, December 18, 2010

I don't think so, said Ahaz....

O God, make speed to save us: O Lord, make haste to help us.

What if he doesn’t show up?

What if he does?

Imagine what it was like. Ahaz, king of Judah, sees himself being surrounded. The king of Israel – the northern kingdom - and the king of Damascus have formed an alliance, to counter the giant power of the time, Assyria. They want Ahaz, and Judah, to join their alliance.

I don’t think so, says Ahaz.

So they plot his overthrow, and to replace him with a puppet king.

Isaiah the prophet tells Ahaz not to worry – soon all these people will be dead and gone. Do not put your trust in earthly powers…

If you do not stand firm in faith, you shall not stand at all.

Ask for a sign, Ahaz, anything at all, high or low.

I don’t think so, says Ahaz.

I will not ask, and I will not test the Lord.

Exasperated with Ahaz’ intransigence, the prophet says fine, God will give you a sign anyway, by himself.

A girl is going to have a baby.

A girl is going to have a baby! That’s all you got?

My kingdom is about to be overrun – by my friends, thank you very much – if my enemies don’t get here first.

Maybe (he muses) I should cut a deal…

And he does. Ahaz cuts a deal – with Assyria, and becomes a vassal to their king, and Judah a client state of the Assyrian Empire.

Ahaz did not listen to Isaiah or ask for the sign – or see the sign – of God’s promise. He gave up.

If you do not stand firm in faith, you shall not stand at all.

Assyria absorbs the Northern Kingdom, the kingdom of Israel. Not long after, within a generation, Babylon captures Judah and its people, its leaders, go into exile and slavery.

Centuries go by. Now the people of the promise are under the thumb of Rome and its client ruler Herod.

A prophet went to Ahaz. An angel comes to Joseph.

Joseph was troubled. His betrothed was pregnant.

A girl is going to have a baby.

That’s the message the angel gives him.

A girl is going to have a baby.

Your girl.

What should he do?

The angel - the messenger of God - says to Joseph, don’t worry. Marry the girl. Her child will be the savior of his people. He will be the truth of the prophet Isaiah, “God is with us.”

Joseph says, Amen.

And so it was – and is.

Obedience, not fears, carries the day. Joseph accepts the promise and acts to carry it to fulfillment. In faith he takes Mary as his wife. And as the angel commanded he names the child Jesus, which means, GOD SAVES.

Jesus – Joshua – Y’shua: GOD SAVES.

And so the Holy Family begins its journey – its journey of faith, where the word of God led them. They travel where Israel traveled, down to Egypt to exile and return, and they come to settle down in a village in the north country called Nazareth.

From there the word goes out – the living Word, Jesus: GOD SAVES.

And he does. And he will.

God is active in the world, moving his people to salvation, moving them from despair to hope, from insufficiency to prosperity, from fear to freedom.

God saves. Joseph believes it –

May we like Joseph welcome the immanent birth of the Christ Child. May we welcome the news that something extraordinary is being borne into the world at Christmas. May we husband the bearers of that gladness, and nurture its small beginnings until great things are done.

Fragile, powerful, the gift of grace comes towards us –

Shall we respond like Ahaz? I don’t think so.

Or shall we respond like Joseph? And follow the message of the Lord.

Restore us, O God of hosts; shine upon us and save us. Let your hand be upon the Son of Man, the one you have sent. Give us life that we may praise your name.

Paul served Christ as a messenger, an apostle,
sent forth for the good news of God,
good news of the Son of Man,
the Son of God,
the one through whom we receive grace,
the one who sends us out into the world with good news,
who calls us into obedience,
who calls us into belonging,
who invites us to be his own,
and who gives us the strength,
the grace,
the peace,
to be his people,
to live in faith,
and stand in faith:
living into his promise,
our assurance is this:
God is with us.

You and I are called
to belong to Jesus,
to spread the good news,
to live the good news,
to be the good news of Jesus,
in this place,
in this time,
to each other,
to the people around us,
to the world beyond –

We are called
and we are promised:
God is with us.

Restore us O God of hosts, show the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved, and we shall live to praise your name. Amen.

Come, Lord Jesus.


Isaiah 7:10-16
Psalm 80:1-7, 16-18
Romans 1:1-7
Matthew 1:18-25


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