18Now the birth of Jesus happened like this: His mother was already pledged to Joseph, but before he had actually married her and taken her to bed with him, she got pregnant by the Holy Spirit. 19Joseph, her husband was a righteous man, but he didn’t want to publicly shame here, so he was planning to divorce her quietly. 20But while he was considering it, an angel of the Lord put in a surprise appearance in a dream, and said, â€œJoseph, son of David, don’t be afraid to take Mary as your wife, because what she has conceived comes from the Holy Spirit. 21She will give birth to a son, and you will call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins. 22This all happened to make complete what the Lord had spoken through the prophet:
For us, Advent is a very time oriented part of the year. There is a sense of expectation. We light one more candle each week, indicating the coming of the light. Now in modern times we rush things a bit. I saw Christmas decorations and heard Christmas music in October. But in that year so long ago, there was no early Christmas cheer, no bustling puchase of presents, no string of Christmas parties to cheer one and all.
It was a dry and dreery time in Palestine. The country was subject to King Herod the Great. History would call him â€œgreatâ€ and he did accomplish some extraordinary things, but he combined those with extraordinary cruelty. It was a time of darkness. And even after the birth of Jesus, things didn’t look up much. We see Christmas as a time of great joyâ€”and rightfully so. Then we see Good Friday as a kind of â€œdownâ€ day, followed by Easter, which is great joy all over again. But such was not the feeling of the people at the time.
And that’s the thing about us humans. We’re very time oriented. But you see, God is not so time oriented. God is all over space, and he’s all over time. He’s all over everywhere and everywhen. He’s with us all the time.
When God sent Jesus, he wasn’t doing something new to him. He was expressing who he always was. God is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. That’s a wonderful thing. I may be in a good mood one day, and a very bad mood the next. I may be cheerful and encouraging one day and drag you down the next. But God is always the same. When it’s dark, he’s there. When we have only one candle lit, he’s there. He’s still there when we light the last candle.
Matthew tells us that all this happened to fulfill what Isaiah had spoken. Now we have trouble with the word fulfill. We think it’s just a matter of predicting one event, and then the event happens. But God has much more than that. He fills events with meaning.
When Isaiah spoke the words that Matthew quoted, he was talking to a king who felt abandoned. He was checking out the defenses of Jerusalem because he expected to be attacked. He wasn’t a particularly good king, and he had no reason to expect God to come to his aid. But God, the same in Isaiah’s time, in Jesus’ time, and in our time, was on the job. He sent Isaiah the prophet to find King Ahaz and tell him this: God is with you.
That was a little sign of who God is, a little intervention. It opened a window of light. But Ahaz didn’t want to make use of the light. He didn’t recognize â€œGod with usâ€ in Isaiah’s words.
It’s advent, and time for us to ask the question: Are we going to be like Joseph, who went on after his dream to marry a pregnant brideâ€”a dangerous thing in his day? Or are we going to be like Ahaz and say, â€œI don’t want to get involved in this.â€
God was present in both places. Will we be there?