Sunday, December 20, 2015

Fourth Sunday of Advent: A Sign

The first week of the Advent season we read passages about creation and the entrance of sin into the world. There was great sin and shame, but we saw hope in Genesis 3:15 when God promised to send someone who would overcome Satan. The second week we read passages in which God began to reveal more of His plan to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Last week we read passages about David being anointed king of Israel and about God's promise to raise up a ruler from David’s line whose kingdom would last forever.

Israel had great hope because a righteous ruler was coming! The prophet Isaiah spoke of a sign from God that would indicate the Promised One was coming: “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14).

For many years there were prophecies of the coming Messiah. God promised to send someone to crush Satan. God promised to bless all nations of the world through Abraham. God promised to raise up a righteous ruler from David’s line who would reign forever. Then for 400 years God was silent. For 400 years God’s people continued to wait, longing for their Messiah.

And then one day the silence was broken. An angel came to Mary to tell her that she would conceive and give birth to the Son of the Most High God. The one who had been promised was coming! This was the one of whom the prophets spoke. This was the one who would crush the head of the serpent. This was the one who would bless all nations of the world. This was the righteous ruler from David's line. God Himself was coming to earth. Immanuel. God with us. The Messiah was coming! He was coming to save His people from their sins.

26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin's name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” 29 But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. 30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
34 And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”
35 And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. 36 And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38 And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her. 
Luke 1:26-38
46 And Mary said, 
   “My soul magnifies the Lord,
47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
    For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
49 for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
    and holy is his name.
50 And his mercy is for those who fear him
    from generation to generation.
51 He has shown strength with his arm;
    he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
52 he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
    and exalted those of humble estate;
53 he has filled the hungry with good things,
    and the rich he has sent away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
    in remembrance of his mercy,
55 as he spoke to our fathers,
    to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”  
Luke 1:46-55
18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: 
23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
    and they shall call his name Immanuel” 
(which means, God with us). 24 When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, 25 but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus. 
Matthew 1:18-25

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