Saturday, December 17, 2016

The Lord Himself Will Give You This Sign

" Prepare Ye the Way of The LORD "
Without Ceasing by Philip Russell

Then Isaiah said: Listen, O house of David! Is it not enough for you to weary people, must you also weary my God? Therefore, the Lord himself will give you this sign: the virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall name him Emmanuel.  Isaiah 7:13-14

“Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her. She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus because he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel, which means “God is with us.”  Matthew 1:20-23

In these waning seven final days of Advent, we are invited not to run from our responsibilities but to take them on with a new zeal – like Joseph breaking tradition.  God looks upon us as he looked upon Joseph -- the humble and obscure.  Likewise, the Lord Himself will give us a sign that invites us to accept Jesus into our lives no matter how disruptive it might be to the status quo.  Without fear, let’s join the Advent Conspiracy and celebrate that story by spending less, giving more, loving all and worshipping fully this Christmas.

We have signs all around us.  Some signs are so familiar that we fail to pay attention and follow them.  Although I rarely get a speeding ticket, more often than not, I end up getting pulled over for rolling through a stop sign or through a red light when turning.  The Fairfax County officer gets my license when he knocks on the car window, “Hello (again).” Or worse, you get a letter in the mail with a fine to pay and a picture of your car (and you) violating the red light. Familiarity breeds obliviousness. 

When we stop paying attention to our surroundings, something serious – like that $100 fine or the blue lights in the rear-view mirror -- must awaken us from our stupor.  Joseph was going along just as every bridegroom in Jewish history.  Any other man confronted by a fiancĂ© who was pregnant would end the engagement or get a divorce.  Joseph needed something to jar him out of tradition.

Joseph was likely a devout observer of the Mosaic law.  He wished to break his union with someone whom he suspected of gross violation of the law. Beyond being his wish, some would say he was required to do so.  In fact, the penalty for adultery was death by stoning.  To spare Mary, he opted to divorce her quietly. 

Sparing the woman caught in adultery is a scene that happens only one other time in the Gospels.  Remember the story of the woman taken in adultery in John’s Gospel (John 8:1-11).  When Jesus is in the temple confronted by the woman and her accusers, he quietly humbled the Pharisees into not killing her.  He quietly bent down and wrote something unknown in the sand.  Finally, Jesus stood up and said, “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”  Years prior, Joseph broke this tradition to pave the way for Jesus to come into the world.

Enter the angel from the Lord.  
Stop. Stop your blind adherence to tradition.

Yield. Yield to the wishes of the Lord.

Walk.  Walk with your betrothed to Bethlehem to comply with the census.

Joseph needed a sign just like Isaiah provided a sign to reassure Ahaz that he need not fear the invading armies of Syria and Israel in the light of God’s promise to David.   (2 Sm 7:12–13).

[W]hen your days have been completed and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring after you, sprung from your loins, and I will establish his kingdom.  He it is who shall build a house for my name, and I will establish his royal throne forever.

The name Emmanuel means “with us is God.” For us, the anticipated incarnation is the ultimate expression of God’s enthusiasm and commitment to “be with us,” as evidenced by the birth of Christ and the coming of the New Jerusalem.  The new laws that such an event ushers into the world and into our hearts are the great gifts of Christmas.

The wait is almost over. Are the blue lights flashing in your rear-view mirror? Are you ready to accept what these great gifts mean in how you live?

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