4th Sunday of Advent (A)
By SCOTT HOEZEE
Jesus. Immanuel. Immanuel. Jesus.
Suppose that one day you were reading a story in which an elderly woman is talking to her pregnant granddaughter. “Now listen, my dear,” the old woman says, “I would ask that you name this child after your grandfather and so give him the name Nelson.” Suppose the young woman agrees. “OK, Grandma, his name will be Nelson.” But what would you think if the narrator of the story then wrote, “And so this fulfilled a prediction once made by the pregnant woman’s father that her firstborn would be named ‘Wallace.’” Well, which is it: Nelson or Wallace? And if it ends up being Nelson, then what does Wallace have to do with anything?
So also in Matthew 1: the angel says to name the baby “Jesus,” and Matthew turns right around and says, “That’s right: he’s little baby Immanuel.” And no sooner does Matthew write that and we are told that when the baby was born, Joseph did as he was told and named the little fellow “Jesus.”
By STAN MAST
That sign still stands for us today, in a time of war and fear when leaders jockey for power and enemies are at the gates and we don’t know whom to trust.
On this Fourth Sunday of Advent, just 3 days away from Christmas, our reading from Isaiah 7 doesn’t seem very Christmasy. Oh, it does if we focus only on verse 14 and the way our Gospel reading for today interprets it (Matthew 1:18-25). But if we read our text in its context, there’s no hint of shepherds keeping watch out in the fields by night; there’s only the enemy camped out at the very gates of Jerusalem. If we want to get the full meaning of this famous prophecy, we can’t skip right over to its New Testament fulfillment. We need to hear it as its first listeners heard it. Then we can grasp its deeper and wider meaning for our day.
The earlier verses of Isaiah 7 set the scene. Those days in 735/734 were a time of war and fear. The southern kingdom of Judah was under attack by a coalition of the northern kingdom of Israel and the Syrians. Those two unlikely allies had come together to fend off an attack by the rising power of Assyria, which was gobbling up countries to its west and south on the way to the seaports of the Mediterranean and the riches of Egypt. Judah had refused to join their alliance, preferring instead to attempt a treaty with Assyria. But now the combined armies of Israel and Syria have besieged Jerusalem during the reign of Ahaz, a part of the Davidic dynasty…