Monday, December 12, 2016

With-us (is) God – 18 December 2016 – Fourth Sunday of Advent

Matthew 1:18-25

Having established Jesus' ancestry as a glimpse into the mysterious and hidden working of God through the generations, Matthew turns his attention to the circumstances of Jesus' birth.

The Old Testament resonances just pictured in the genealogy almost jump from the page. Like Tamar, Rahab, Ruth and Bathsheba, Jesus' mother, Mary, gave birth under circumstances that would have generated gossip and scandal among those unable to imagine or acknowledge the hidden hand of God. Even Joseph himself required an angelic visitor in a dream to assure him. . .  

As the church reflects together on Matthew's witness to Jesus' life and work, the people of God are invited to recognize that all that Jesus was and did could only come from beyond us. Matthew's witness to Jesus' virgin birth is in no way a rejection of human sexuality. It is instead the proclamation that salvation does not come “from within” or from human potential, but as a gift from God. – Aaron J. Couch

Joseph's refusal to abandon Mary and listen to the angel [might inspire us to] ask ourselves, “To whom can I be Joseph this Christmas? How am I going to show God's love and compassion to someone else? . . .  Can God can love me just as I am?” – Mary Katharine Deeley 

Isaiah 7:10-16

Matthew indicates that Jesus' birth in this way—by direct intervention from God and without a human father—was the fulfillment of scripture, quoting Isaiah 7:14. Although the Hebrew text says nothing about the young woman's virginity, Matthew sees in the Greek translation a convergence of themes that points directly to Jesus. The prophet Isaiah had not only promised the birth of a child named Emmanuel (God is with us), but the Septuagint translators had made the prophet to say that the child would be born of a virgin. . .  Immanu-El was a sign of God's judgment and mercy.

The word of mercy promised relief from the threat to Jerusalem and the Davidic monarchy from Samaria and Damascus. The word of judgment declared that the Assyrians would bring an even greater crisis.

Jesus, however, came to be the bearer of . . . mercy for sinners and gentiles, and for the whole world, but judgment for all who reject the peaceful reign of God present in Jesus. Remembering that Emmanuel means “God (is) with us,” Matthew saw that Jesus truly “filled full” the prophecy of Isaiah. – Aaron J. Couch

Romans 1:1-7

Deeley (above) asks whether God can love us just as we are. She finds the answer –  Yes – in Romans.

Paul talks about his mission to the gentiles and says: “among whom are you also, who are called to belong to Christ Jesus.” Belonging to Jesus is at the heart of Christian identity. Belonging to Jesus means that we live each day with the reality of the incarnation. . . in the Paschal mystery of death and resurrection. When we belong to Jesus, we have no need to fear loneliness or suffering because Jesus himself walks with us. . .  Christmas reminds us that we belong and are loved beyond measure. That reality heals all wounds, eases all suffering, and brings us to peace. – Mary Katharine Deeley

Aaron J. Couch is a co-pastor of First Immanuel Lutheran Church in Portland, Oregon.

Mary Katharine Deeley is the director of Christ the Teacher Institute of the Sheil Catholic Center at Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois, the author of many books, a frequent speaker on diverse topics, and a pastoral advisor.

Homily Service 41, no. 1 (2007): 43-52.

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