Fourth Sunday of Advent: Is. 7:10-16, Rom. 1:1-7, Mt. 1:18-25
Christmas means that God invades the ordinary. God invades our unlikeliness. God invades the details. What did Salmon think, marrying the recently converted harlot from Jericho? What did Boaz think, marrying the Moabite widow?
Ask A Sign
When Isaiah instructs Ahaz to ask for a sign, the prophet is instructing Ahaz to expect God to act in his story. While Ahaz attempts to sound pious in his protest, his refusal is actually straight up insolence and rebellion (Is. 7:10-13). Ahaz is the king of Judah, and the kings of Israel and Syria in the north have come down to attack Jerusalem and set up a new king in the place of Ahaz (Is. 7:1, 6). Isaiah has already declared to Ahaz that this plot will not succeed (Is. 7:7), and within sixty-five years the power of this alliance will be broken (Is. 7:8). But with this declaration, Isaiah calls Ahaz to faith, to believe the word of the Lord (Is. 7:9). Now whether Ahaz believed that sixty-five years was too long or whether he was planning to make contingency plans in case God didn’t come through, Ahaz refused to believe God’s word. In the face of this disobedience and unbelief, Isaiah gives the king of Judah a sign far surpassing the need of the hour. Ahaz needed deliverance from a siege, and Isaiah proclaims the birth of the Savior of the world (Is. 7:14). There would be an immediate fulfillment of this prophecy in some sense (Is. 7:16), but the words of Isaiah would hang in the air and soak into his descendants, waiting to be ignited by the Spirit centuries later (cf. Mt. 1:9ff).
Matthew tells the story of the birth of Jesus from the perspective of Joseph. Mary is discovered pregnant (Mt. 1:18), and even though Matthew makes it clear that this was by the Holy Spirit, Joseph either doesn’t believe or hasn’t gotten the word yet (Mt. 1:19). Joseph is a just man, wanting to do what is right in a difficult situation, but it is not until the angel of the Lord appears to him in a dream, explaining the whole thing, does Joseph consent to take Mary as his wife (Mt. 1:20-24). Matthew explains that Joseph honored the special calling of Mary while she was pregnant and did not consummate their marriage until after Jesus was born (Mt. 1:25). Joseph also honored the special lineage of this Son by giving Him the name he was instructed to give Him by the angel (Mt. 1:25, 21). The text tells us that Joseph was a judicious man, but his actions confirm the same thing. He was obedient to God in all the little things. And his conscientious obedience was used by God to bring the Savior into the world.
God Invades Our Flesh
When Paul writes the Romans, he addresses them with all the joy of Christmas. It takes Paul a full seven verses to get to the actual greeting (Rom. 1:7), and this is because Paul is loading the greeting with meaning. He wants the greeting to pack a punch. In fact, the structure of his greeting is chiastically centered on Jesus, “born of the seed of David, according to the flesh” (Rom. 1:3). This center is hedged on either side with proclamations and callings. First, Paul’s calling to be an apostle for the gospel of God was earlier proclaimed through the prophets in the Scriptures (Rom. 1:2). Likewise, Jesus was proclaimed to be the Son of God by His resurrection from the dead by which Paul (and the others) have received “grace and apostleship” – among whom the Roman Christians have also been called (Rom. 1:4-6). The “outer ring” of this tightly wound introduction is the parallel between Paul and the Romans with Jesus at the center. Paul is just a normal guy with two arms and two legs and a nose, just like the Romans. But Jesus was born of the seed of David, according to the flesh. In other words, God invaded the family of David through His Son Jesus, and by His death and resurrection Jesus ransomed all the families of the earth from the Fall. This has begun the invasion of every family by God. Paul has been conquered by this same gospel as have the Romans, “beloved of God, called to be saints.” This is the grace and peace of God.
So the declaration of Christmas comes: God has invaded our flesh. He has invaded our everything, our everywhere. This is His grace and peace come down.
How will you respond? Are you an Ahaz or a Joseph? An Ahaz or a Paul? Will you be a Salmon? A Boaz?
And I’m talking about the details. I’m talking about the little things. Will you believe or will you doubt? Will you obey or will you shrink back? When the finances are tight? When the children are difficult? When your marriage is on the rocks? When you are tired, when you don’t feel well, when the darkness comes? When you’re comfortable and don’t want anything to change?
Will you die to your own pride, to your own comfort, to your own hopes and dreams, and will you make Jesus and His Word your everything? Will you work hard to have more to give to others?
That is the grace and peace of God our Father and of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The birth of Jesus, the virgin conception is the proclamation that God has come in the flesh of man. And His Answer is greater than all our questions. God has invaded the family of David, and therefore we proclaim grace and peace to all flesh.