Blue mountains Franciscan Church
Sermon preached by Br Andrew from Maroubra on Sunday 18th December 2016
4th Sunday in Advent Year A
14Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Emmanuel. (Isaiah 7:14 NRSV)
The Emmanuel Book
Once again, the readings all slot nicely together to give us a cohesive view of some of those occasions in the Scripture we may term an Emmanuel event.
We always tend to associate the word Emmanuel with the name associated with a person, the coming Saviour or Messiah, however my recent research has led me to understand what is known as the “Emmanuel” event.
The Emmanuel event is a time in history when there is incontrovertible evidence that God is with us, hence the meaning of the word Emmanuel is God with us. Contextually speaking the Septuagint Bible, because it contains all books written in the Canon of Scripture, contains the stepping stones of Emmanuel events from Eden to our Gospel reading today when all of these events culminate in the birth of the Emmanuel One Our Lord Jesus Christ.
My opening verse is a famous one and as we are accustomed to we miss the best part by jumping over the other Emmanuel’s in-between to land straight at the door of the Stable, like so many Christian Sheep – so to speak. For such a prophecy to Ahaz himself is hardly going to take mare than 700 years to fulfil.
The prophesy itself echoes another one in Judges 13:3 “And an angel of the Lord appeared to the woman, and said to her, “Behold now, you are barren, and have not borne; and you shall conceive and bear a son” [This is actually in the future tense, as we find concerning Manoah’s wife, who gave birth to Samson, just as it would be in the future concerning the prophecy today.
Hezekiah had been born nine years before his father’s reign -At the current time in history Ahaz’s had been on the throne four years, and so in chapter 8 we read:
“And I was intimate with the prophetess, and she conceived, and she bore a son, and the Lord said to me, “Call his name Maher-shalal-hash-baz.
“and she bore a son: He is the very son whom the prophetess called Immanuel, since the Holy One, blessed be He, would be at the aid of Hezekiah when he would reign. [It is impossible to say that it was another son, for we learned [in Seder Olam ch. 22] that in the fourth year of Ahaz, this prophecy was said, and in the fourth year of Ahaz, Pekah was assassinated, and it is impossible for two children to be born in one year, one after the other.] And Isaiah his father called him Maher- shalal-hash-baz, because of the calamity destined to befall Rezin and the son of Remaliah, who were coming to wrest the kingdom from the House of David and to curtail the kingdom of Hezekiah.”( Rashi’s Commentary)
Thus the child of whom we speak was the son of Isaiah himself.
Repeating -The sign will be fulfilled in the future, the time of the kingship of Ahaz’s son – who is not mentioned by name because of his righteousness. This we know is Hezekiah, that after the Assyrian invasion and Ahaz’s failed attempts at political alliances. “And in the days of Hezekiah his son, the miracle was performed.” (Rash’s Commentary)
Hence God is with them in the event.
The Psalm, its original title being:
“For the conductor, to the roses, a testimony, of Asaph a song”
Where the Rose indicates Israel. – and the portion we have then takes us through other Emmanuel events.
- Its reference to three Nations Israel, Jehu and Aram.
- It’s reference to the Exile in Egypt and Babylon.
- The Kings of Media and Persia,
- The trouble brought about by the Greek kings
And the peoples sworn promises to abide with God for the Redemption which surely shall come – Emmanuel.( read the full commentary by Rashi here: http://www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/16301#showrashi=true)
Each successive visitation of an Emmanuel brings Judah and the world closer to the great Emmanuel event mentioned by Matthew in the Gospel today.
. 21She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.’ 22 All this took place to fulfil what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet:
23 ‘Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall name him Emmanuel’,
which means, ‘God is with us (Matt 1:21; NRSV)
Isaiah’s prophecy has reached its double intention, along with all the other Emmanuel events from:
Genesis 3:15 “15 I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and hers;
he will strike your head,
and you will strike his heel.NRSV’ until here.
Mary was engaged to Joseph in that special Biblical manner espoused or betrothed that gave her the protection of her future husband during an engagement that might last several months to a couple of years. This gave the couple time to plan for their married life together while still living in their own homes. – e.g. Mary had not yet known a man and Joseph certainly knew that if she had he was not the one.
Mary may have shared the events with her friend, who knowing her piety would not have doubted her, especially in the light of Elizabeth’s testimony. She seems not to have told Joseph, being unsure of his reaction or expecting that revelation might also come to him. By observation Joseph could not doubt the sight of his own eyes and knowing that he was blameless sought to send her away quietly to spare her the wrath of Jewish Law.
And here once more is another Emmanuel moment when the angel Gabriel reveals to Joseph in a dream that everything is as Mary says. Joseph is to name him Jesus for he will save his people from their sins. To continue to preserve the sanctity and safety of the child there are no sexual relations until after Jesus is born.
Now is ushered in Anno Emmanuel.
Meanwhile, how is it to live in this new reign of Emmanuel? One take on the opening verses of Romans is that it is the gospel itself that is Set Apart from the rest of the Scriptures in that it will speak of the single most Emmanuel event of all time-that Paul has been called to preach the Life and Teachings of Christ and he follows by giving a glissade attributing Jesus as God’s son and Messiah.
The second interpretation is that Paul himself has been set apart, called as an Apostle, to preach the gospel; thus, in his opening verse he stresses this point in the face of Jewish Christians who do not believe he has the right to the title. But there are many who are called Apostles the chief of these being the twelve Apostles.
Living in the reign of Emmanuel is not so different than living between the stepping stones to it since human beings remain constant in their selfishness, disbelief and sin. The difference being that we are completely covered by the canopy of Emmanuel, God with us, and we know our duties to him. Throughout our own histories, we have seen Emmanuel events when God was with our Nations, in our catastrophes, our times of desolation of joy. The smaller or larger events in the course of each of our lives when we felt ourselves touched by Grace. We know God is with us and Jesus has a special contract for those who would follow him and simple clauses for forgiveness and as many new starts as we want. Remember Ahaz’s choice though – do not refused the good the Lord offers you because it can change a bright future into a strifeful future.
Readings:New Revised Standard Version of the Bible. 2016. New Revised Standard Version of the Bible. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.devotions.net/bible/00bible.htm. [Accessed 18 December 2016].
The Complete Tanach with Rashi’s Commentary – Tanakh Online – Torah – Bible . 2016. The Complete Tanach with Rashi’s Commentary – Tanakh Online – Torah – Bible . [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/63255/jewish/The-Bible-with-Rashi.htm. [Accessed 18 December 2016].
Image attribution Anton Raphael Mengs [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons