Advent with Handel’s Messiah Second Sunday December 7, 2008
Start with story of Kevin putting up “I love you” sign for Faith.
Last Christmas, Linda Ruth gave me a book from The Voice Project called “The Voice from on High.” It is a translation and exploration of scripture from Handel’s Messiah. It’s inspired me to look at a selection of scripture from the Messiah as our Advent series this year.
Any “Messiah” stories?
Today we are looking at the scripture found in part 8 of Handel’s Messiah Isaiah 7:10-15
Ahaz: 2 Kings 16:1-4
In the seventeenth year of Pekah son of Remaliah, Ahaz son of Jotham king of Judah began to reign. Ahaz was twenty years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem sixteen years. Unlike David his father, he did not do what was right in the eyes of the LORD his God. He followed the ways of the kings of Israel and even sacrificed his son in the fire, engaging in the detestable practices of the nations the LORD had driven out before the Israelites. He offered sacrifices and burned incense at the high places, on the hilltops and under every spreading tree.
God comes to Ahaz – this rebellious king, and says “I’m going to save you from your enemies. I really am – just ask me for a sign to prove it to you – ask for anything – something deep in the earth, or something up in the sky – I’ll do it!”
It is almost like God is saying “I want to love you, just let me!”
Ahaz refuses – he all of a sudden gets religion and quotes scripture about not putting the Lord you God to the test. It’s a smoke-screen. He has not been following God – he doesn’t want God to get that close, to be that real.
Instead of accepting the God of the Universe’s help and protection, Ahaz goes to the nation of Assyria: Ahaz sent messengers to say to Tiglath-Pileser king of Assyria, "I am your servant and vassal. Come up and save me out of the hand of the king of Aram and of the king of Israel, who are attacking me." And Ahaz took the silver and gold found in the temple of the LORD and in the treasuries of the royal palace and sent it as a gift to the king of Assyria. – 2 kings 16:7-8
Instead of accepting God’s help and sign, Ahaz gives God’s possessions to a human king as payment for the help God wanted to give for free!
Even though he has to sell the farm to buy the protection that God is offering for free, he does it – is it a control thing?
God sends a sign anyway – the sign is a child
Then Isaiah said, "Hear now, you house of David! Is it not enough to try the patience of human beings? Will you try the patience of my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. He will be eating curds and honey when he knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right, 16 for before the boy knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right, the land of the two kings you dread will be laid waste. – Isaiah 7:13-16
Isaiah goes home and sleeps with his young wife (the word for virgin could also be translated as a young woman) – they have a child and they name him … Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz! (quick to the plunder, swift to the spoil)
This child is Immanuel – before he knows right from wrong, both Aram and Israel are destroyed. But Ahaz pays a huge price – they become a vassal state of Assyria.
Leap forward 500 years…
Signs of God’s love
Matthew 1 18-23 This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.
But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins."
All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: "The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel" (which means "God with us").
Now you might be thinking, “I thought you just said that Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz was Immanuel, now you are saying that Jesus is Immanuel? Can they both be Immanuel?”
Yes they can – in many prophesies in the Old Testament there is a fulfilment in their time, and then another fulfillment through Jesus, for some of them, we are waiting for the complete fulfillment when Jesus comes again
The church has historically placed a great emphasis on Mary’s virginity, emphasising her purity. But does that mean that married women are impure? Of course it doesn’t. It has come out of a twisted understanding of sex and sexuality – with in the boundaries that God has blaced, sex is very pure and holy, and a gift from God. The emphasis in the scripture is not on Mary’s virginity (although it is true) but on the miracle of the birth. Remember the Gabriel coming to Mary?
In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a village in Galilee, to a virgin named Mary. She was engaged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of King David. Gabriel appeared to her and said, “Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you![d]”
Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean. “Don’t be afraid, Mary,” the angel told her, “for you have found favor with God! You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!”
Mary asked the angel, “But how can this happen? I am a virgin.”
The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God. What’s more, your relative Elizabeth has become pregnant in her old age! People used to say she was barren, but she’s now in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God.”
It is a sign – God is trying to get our attention – he especially gets the men’s attention – “What do you mean He didn’t need a man?”
He has created this big billboard in history that is a miraculous birth – a baby born without the help of a man! And the billboard gets our attention so that God can say “let me love you, let me protect you, let me be with you…”
This Miraculous baby is not just a baby – He is Immanuel
God with us
Unlike Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz, this child is not just a baby, or even just a baby with a miraculous birth – he is what his name says – he is Immanuel, God with us.
If the miraculous birth isn’t a big enough sign for you, how about this one: that little baby is God with us!
John 3:16-17 “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.
O Holy Night!
O holy night! The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of our dear Saviour’s birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
’Til He appear’d and the soul felt its worth.
The worth of your soul – to send His Son as a helpless baby to a homeless family
John 1: 16-18 From his abundance we have all received one gracious blessing after another. For the law was given through Moses, but God’s unfailing love and faithfulness came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. But the unique One, who is himself God, is near to the Father’s heart. He has revealed God to us.
The gift of the Holy Spirit
We go from “God with us” to “God in us.”
Sign of the manger
That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. 9 Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.
Straw poverty – Bono
Sign that God’s love is for all – rich Maji from the east, (That one would have been obvious) But the manger is a sign that God’s love is also for the homeless and the marginalized
Though he was God,
he did not think of equality with God
as something to cling to.
Instead, he gave up his divine privileges;
he took the humble position of a slave
and was born as a human being.
When he appeared in human form,
he humbled himself in obedience to God
and died a criminal’s death on a cross.
Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honour
and gave him the name above all other names,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
Will you accept the sign?
Or, will you be like Ahaz – “I’m okay, I’m in control…”