And so we wait, now one week from Christmas; even more, we wait for Christ to appear in our midst today. The angel quotes the Isaiah 7:14 text to Joseph: “Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel, which means, ‘God is with us.’” Why this statement? We know that Matthew opted to translate the Isaiah text as “virgin” (parthenos), a reading that stands at the heart of our creedal life: “Jesus Christ . . . born of the Virgin Mary.” Whether Isaiah’s “young woman” or Matthew’s “the virgin,” this birth bears witness to God’s unique activity and relates to the refrain, “All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord,” that we hear at many points throughout Matthew’s Gospel. What is going on here? Matthew believes that the gospel stands in continuity with all of God’s covenant work: The God who spoke the first words at Creation is the God who delivered the children of Israel from Egypt, who gave the Law, who raised Jesus from the dead, and the one who continues to send us into the mission of making disciples. He comes even today as Jesus the Messiah, the one born in our hearts.
This title Messiah speaks to God’s intentions. The Messiah ushers in a new era of shalom, where the wolf will lie down with the lamb and all of God’s people will join in a great feast marking the end of death (see Isaiah 11:6-9; 25:6-9). Those who first heard this gospel would’ve heard those intentions in the word messiah, and we can learn to do so. Realists may ask, “So where is this messianic age?”—a good question. It hasn’t appeared in a flash, but the narrative remains incomplete. The Spirit brings it to birth in us in every act of compassion and justice.
We continue to pray, “Come, Lord Jesus,” even in us, even today. Amen.
We are close to the reality of Jesus, in whom we have invested so much of our life and faith. Jesus is larger than life, shattering all the categories of conventional religious recognition. On the one hand, it is asserted that this is the “Son of David,” in continuity with the old dynasty and the old prom- ises. On the other hand, this is one “from the Holy Spirit,” not at all derived from the human dynasty. This twofold way of speak- ing about Jesus does not re ect vacillation or confusion in the community. Rather, it is an awareness that many things must be said about Jesus, because no single claim says enough.
• Read Isaiah 7:10-16. How and when has God saved you in unexpected ways?
• Read Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19. What grace- lled steps have you taken to bring salvation and restoration to the world?
• Read Romans 1:1-7. The author suggests adding a chair to your feasting table. Whom will you invite to ll it?
• Read Matthew 1:18-25. When has God meddled in your life? What was the outcome?
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