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Tuesday, December 18, 2007
As this Advent season draws to a close, we are invited once again to journey with Joseph and Mary, and ponder the awesome mystery of Jesus – Emmanuel, God-with-us. Like many before us, God calls us to choose to follow this Promised One, and to embrace God’s ongoing work of fulfilling promises. Matthew 1:18–25 For the writer of Matthew’s gospel, the birth of Jesus marks the end of the long wait for God’s promised Messiah. In Matthew 1:1, Jesus is proclaimed the Messiah. (Messiah is a translation of the Hebrew word for “chosen one.” In Greek this Hebrew word is translated “Christ.”) The gospel then moves immediately into a genealogy, so that readers might know that Jesus is a descendant of King David. According to ancient prophecies in Hebrew Scriptures, this connection is an important part of God’s promise to send one who will save God’s people. One of the primary themes of the gospel of Matthew is how the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus fulfill the promises that God makes in the Hebrew Scriptures. These promises centre on God sending a messiah – a saviour or champion to unite God’s people and deliver them from all that oppressed them. Matthew’s gospel possibly was written in Antioch, Syria. This area was deeply influenced by the prevailing Roman and Greek cultures and their myriad of gods. Stories of miraculous interactions between humans and gods were common. Matthew underlines Jesus’ identity as not only God’s chosen one, but also as divine, by recording the special circumstances of his birth. It is God who causes Jesus to be conceived, and not Joseph. In Matthew, Joseph is never spoken of as Jesus’ father. The gospel of Matthew tells Joseph’s side of the story of Jesus’ birth. God chose Mary to be the mother of Jesus and, equally, God chose Joseph to care for them. Joseph had a difficult choice to make. His fiancée was pregnant. The traditional punishment, if Joseph had chosen to accuse Mary, would have been to be cast aside, even put to death. Instead Joseph chooses to protect Mary and the baby. From Joseph, we learn about choosing to ground our lives in faithful obedience and righteous action. Joseph names the child Jesus, which means “Yahweh is salvation.” The gospel proclaims that the identity of God’s chosen one is Emmanuel, “God with us.” In declaring that Jesus is Emmanuel, Matthew draws from traditions in Hebrew Scriptures about God dwelling with God’s people. This tradition is present in Isaiah 7:10–16, a dialogue between the prophet Isaiah and Ahaz the king. The king is instructed to ask God for a sign of God’s presence. Ahaz refuses, but a sign is given nonetheless. God takes the initiative and promises that a young woman will bear a son – Emmanuel, “God with us.” “Stir up your might and come to save us!” In Psalm 80:1–7, 17–19, the psalmist implores God to act, and promises that the people will choose to respond to God’s goodness with faithful worship. Paul begins the letter to the Christians in Rome by identifying himself as a messenger and servant of Jesus. In Romans 1:1–7, Paul professes faith in Jesus as the Christ, the Messiah – God’s chosen one promised in the scriptures. Paul’s choice to live with faithfulness to Christ flows from God’s faithfulness. In Jesus, God’s reign comes among us. The lives of Joseph, Mary, Paul, and the believers in Matthew’s community and in Rome were changed in radical ways when they chose to embrace God’s promised one. As we ready ourselves to receive again this gift of Christmas, we are called to choose how we will respond. How do you experience God’s love and call in Jesus the Christ? What choices might our church be called to make?

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Kairos-Milwaukie UCC Blog

Reflections on the Revised Common Lectionary by Rev. Rick Skidmore and Rev. Jim Ogden.

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