Sermons

Summary: We need to listen to His word, and say with Mary, “I am the servant of the Lord, let His will be done in my life.”

December 20, 2018

Thursday of the 3rd Week in Advent

The richness of today’s Scripture lessons cannot be exaggerated. There is so much here that literally books have been written about two passages. We are tempted to exegesis instead of exhortation, but without a little of the former, the latter is made poorer.

Isaiah here is speaking prophetically to one of the great jerks of the OT, King Ahaz, king of Judah. He was making ready the city of Jerusalem for an expected attack by a coalition of the Syrians and the Israelites, the breakaway kingdom of northern Palestine. They wanted to depose Ahaz, descendant of King David, and put a usurper in his place. This would disrupt the promise God had made to David, that his progeny would rule Israel into perpetuity.

Now Ahaz was a totally faithless king. He worshiped false gods, to the extent that he offered his firstborn son as a holocaust to Moloch. So he had no heir. As he was touring the water source for Jerusalem, here comes the prophet Isaiah, with his first-born son, alive and well in contrast with Ahaz’s dead progeny. Isaiah speaks for the true God, and prophesies that if Ahaz simply has faith in the Lord, his enemies would be crushed. He tells the king to ask for a sign from the Lord–anything he wanted to show that God would give him the victory. Now Ahaz had been negotiating with the Assyrians to come in on the side of Ahaz, so he pretends to be pious but he’s really saying he’d rather rely on Assyria than on the Lord.

Isaiah–and the Lord–had had enough. Ahaz is a joke of a king, a clown pretending to be a king in the mold of David. There’s even evidence in the passage that he had become unable to sire a replacement for his dead heir. The Greek text says that his bride is still a virgin. But Isaiah himself gives the sign–the virgin will be pregnant and bear a son, and call him “God with us,” Emmanuel. And the result of the future alliance with Assyria will be horrible, economic collapse and starvation. Yes, Assyria would defeat and ravage the lands of Israel and Syria, but Judah would pay a terrible price.

God loves the ones he chooses ferociously, tenaciously. He loves us too much not to let the results of our own folly catch up with us. He even loves jerks like Ahaz, a man who murdered his own son. And God fulfills His promises, for the son of Ahaz, Hezekiah, would be one of the most faithful of David’s descendants.

The scene shifts from the great capital of Jerusalem to a humble, out of the way village in Galilee called Nazareth. Another virgin is called by God to be a mother, but there will be no human father. This Annunciation to the Blessed Virgin Mary constitutes “the deepest mystery of the relationship between God and men and the most important event in the history of mankind.” The angel appears to Mary and says “Rejoice, full of grace.” Mary, we believe, was preserved from all sin and filled with grace in view of the infinite merits of her Son, Jesus, and His death on the cross for us. He continues, “the Lord is with you,” or even “in you.” And the exchange ends with a promise that she will be the mother of the Messiah, the fulfillment of the promise to King David and Solomon and Ahaz and Hezekiah and God’s whole people. His name will be Jeshuah, or “the Lord saves,” and He will be the Son of God and King of Israel forever.

The implication is clear: Mary will be the queen mother, who will also reign at her son’s side in his kingdom. Moreover, since she will be the spouse of the Holy Spirit, she will remain physically virginal, the bride of God alone. And sign to Mary that all of this is true is that her cousin Elizabeth, well past the age of childbearing, is in the sixth month of pregnancy. Nothing is too great for God’s power. And Mary says the words the entire world was waiting to hear: behold the servant of the Lord, be it done to me according to thy word. Thus began the drama that catches all of us up through our own baptism into union with Christ.

So what does that mean for us? We have to center our own lives on the reality of God’s enduring love for all of us. We need to listen to His word, and say with Mary, “I am the servant of the Lord, let His will be done in my life.” And we need to act accordingly, empowered by His grace.

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