On this fourth and last Sunday of Advent the readings call us to reflect on the Mystery of the Incarnation, the fact that God became one of us.
It is Isaiah who promises a sign to the besieged and vacillating King Ahaz: “Listen, O house of David, it 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) Isaiah’s promise of Emmanuel (God is with us) to Ahaz was also the promise to us of Jesus, the Messiah.
Paul echoes the prophecy in describing his call to discipleship whereby he was set apart to serve the “Gospel of God in which He promised previously through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures, the gospel about His Son, descended from David according to the flesh, but established as Son of God.” (Rom 1:1-4) Like Paul, our response to Jesus, God with us, should be discipleship of service in imitation of the one “who came not to be served but to serve.” (Matt 20:28)
Finally, in his infancy narrative of the circumstances of Jesus’ birth, Matthew takes us back to Isaiah’s prophecy through the voice of an angel reassuring Joseph in a dream of the source of Mary’s pregnancy: “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.” (Matt 1:20-22)
Thus as the time of anticipation surrenders to the time of fulfillment we prepare to mark not only the birth of Jesus, the Son of God and Son of Mary, but the accomplishment of God’s promise to become one of us.
Image Credit: Lawrence OP on Flickr (The Annunciation – Detail from a window in Trinity College Oxford c.1885 by Powell)
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