Isaiah 7:14 & 9:6-7 (NRSV)
Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel. For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. His authority shall grow continually, and there shall be endless peace for the throne of David and his kingdom. He will establish and uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time onward and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.
Wouldn’t you love to have God give you a sign? A real, visible and tangible expression of God’s will and direction? Most of us have longed for greater clarity from God that gives us a solid, unequivocal sense of what God wants from us. King Ahaz, who lived 700 years before Jesus, hears these words from the prophet Isaiah. The King was anxious about invading armies and forming military alliances with the potential winner. The King had wanted direction from God, but wouldn’t ask God for sign. God gave it anyway; to help King Ahaz look ahead, as a promise that God holds the future that God moves with us into our future. God makes promises to us because God is always faithful. What God offers to us will be reliable and dependable.
Christians like this scripture because it helps us to look ahead to the promised coming of the Messiah. We think of this passage as not only applying to Isaiah’s time, but also to the birth of Jesus, the one who will be for us Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. We look to these words each year as Advent returns and we hunger for the coming of Christ again to our world and for faith to be reborn in our lives.
The reality is God is always breaking into our world. God gives us signs for how we are to live and care for one another and how we are to find greater faith. Most of these signs are not outrageous. These signs are more like Isaiah’s: a woman (probably Isaiah’s wife) will give birth and by the time the child was old enough, these immediate troubles in the world will have passed. What signs of God’s faithfulness can you see this Advent? God will give you reminders that God is dependable and faithful; breaking into your world with help and with hope for you. We open our eyes more widely to the work of God, which is the great wonder of this season.
Prayer: God, come to us again this Advent and help us to experience your life-giving presence. Where the future looks so difficult or dim, rekindle your hope within us that your presence will move us through this time. Where pain or brokenness has left us injured, restore us with your healing touch that allows us to move through our days stronger and renewed. Where we worry so much about our world, may we again be confident of your life-giving love that can inspire us and others to do your work and bring your justice and peace. Amen.
Pastor Dave Summers