4 ADVENT – A
Just a quick check-in on the context of this part of Isaiah. Sitting in the capital city of Jerusalem, Ahaz, the King of Judah, has just found out that two of his enemies have formed an alliance in order to destroy him.
God tells Isaiah the prophet to go talk to the king and give him a message from God to reassure him. Stay faithful, trust God, and all will be well. Ahaz isn’t so sure, so in our text this morning, God speaks to Ahaz and tells the king ask for any sign that would convince him of God’s presence and faithfulness. Ahaz refuses to ask for a sign.
So, what do you think? Is it a good idea or a bad one that the King of Judah, Ahaz, refuses a sign from God? On the one hand, Jesus himself says, “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.” On the other hand, God is the one making the offer. . .
What would you do? . . .
What would be a legitimate sign from God for you? . . .
In Isaiah 7, the sign given to Ahaz (even though he says he doesn’t want one) is that a young woman will get pregnant. That doesn’t seem to be very strong; we’re talking about invading armies forming coalitions against Jerusalem, and the sign not to worry is a young woman getting pregnant? Really?
There’s a little more to it: the baby she’ll give birth to will be a boy, and she’ll name him “Immanuel,” or, God with us. And by the time he’s eating solid food, these two kings won’t be a threat any more.
Now, what do you do with that?
Would that be sufficient for you?
Should he trust that this is a sign from God, or shouldn’t he?
In the gospel of Matthew this text is re-translated to talk about the birth of Jesus as the sign of God’s presence and faithfulness. In that gospel no one believes it except Mary, Joseph, and three foreign atheists.
The signs given here seem to be things most people wouldn’t consider to be signs. Easily overlooked. Almost normal if you didn’t know better. A young woman is pregnant, gives birth to a boy, names him, and within a couple of years he’s eating solid food.
And yet, we take it as a sign. Through this we trust that God is present in the world. God is faithful – not only to Ahaz, but even to us. And more than that, our purpose now is to BE signs of God’s presence for the rest of the world.
I think we spend too much time trying to convince people about the signs of God’s presence instead of being signs of God’s presence.
What we know from this text in Isaiah, and in Matthew’s interpretation of it, is that signs of God’s presence aren’t necessarily neon signs in the sky. They’re not always big and grand and convincing. They can just as easily –and much more frequently – be simple, normal, overlooked – but still visible.
When you volunteer at The Action Center or are involved in a build for Habitat for Humanity, you’re a sign of God’s presence.
When you donate money to World Hunger, bring food for Molholm Elementary, drop off toys for the Christmas Cheer project, you’re a sign of God’s presence.
When you are kind to someone who doesn’t deserve it, when you show compassion to someone who may take advantage of it, you’re a sign of God’s presence.
When you write your congressperson to support legislation benefiting the poor, you’re a sign of God’s presence.
When you trust the gift of forgiveness you’ve received enough to give it away, you’re a sign of God’s presence.
When you combine our small, what sometimes feels like insignificant signs, it becomes a beacon of light for the world. God is here. You are loved. You do matter. There is hope.
God is present. God is faithful. We are now among the Advent signs for the world.