Isaiah 7: 10-14
Matthew 1: 18-24
How would you or I respond to an encounter with God? In today’s first Scripture Reading and the Gospel, we see two different reactions to an encounter with the Divine. In the reading from the Book of Isaiah, we see the Lord, through His prophet Isaiah, offering to make any sign to prove to Ahaz, that the God of his ancestors, the God of Abraham, Moses, and David; was still with His people, still had the power to defend them from their enemies. Now, Ahaz was the king of Judah, the southern part of the former Kingdom of Israel established by King David. Years after the deaths of David and Solomon, the Kingdom split into two smaller kingdoms, the southern one called Judah, held the city of Jerusalem. The northern kingdom retained the name of Israel. Now the northern kingdom would eventually be conquered by the Assyrians, and wiped off the map. King Ahaz did not want that to happen to his kingdom, so he began paying tribute money to the Assyrians, and allowing the worship of the Assyrian gods. At the same time, he was preparing Jerusalem to withstand a siege, and negotiating secret alliances with the other regional powers. The prophet Isaiah tells Ahaz that all that is needed is to remain faithful to God, and his people will be safe. And to prove it, God will give Ahaz a sign of His power. Now Ahaz , a pragmatist, some today could call him a secularist, would rather depend on his own efforts; but to humor Isaiah, he hides behind false humility: “I will not tempt the Lord!” God sees through this act, and through Isaiah, gives Ahaz a sign, whether he wants it or not. Biblical scholars believe that the child of the prophecy is Ahaz’s own son, Hezekiah, whose mother had just become old enough for child bearing. For his lack of faith, Ahaz is counted as one of the wicked kings of Israel, and it is said, he was not buried with his ancestors, David and Solomon.
Now in today’s Gospel, we hear about Joseph, and how he faced the situation with his betrothed, Mary. The evangelist Matthew, describes Joseph as a “righteous man,” someone who is faithful to God, who has followed the Mosaic Law. And according to that law, Joseph was within his rights to expose Mary’s “unfaithfulness,” and break the engagement; though it could expose Mary to shame, and possible punishment, even death. Yet, Joseph was not just a righteous man; he was a holy man, a compassionate man. He was going to protect Mary from public exposure, and quietly divorce her. It is then that the angel of God speaks to him. Joseph learns that child will be a son, conceived through the power of the Holy Spirit, that he is the Son of God. Joseph is being called by God, to accept this child, care for, and protect this child, who will be the salvation of all humanity. Now Joseph could have waken up from this dream, and his reaction could have been, “I really have to be careful of bad goat cheese,” or “This calling is too much for me, I cannot accept this.” But he does accept the calling, because he trusts in the love of God, he believes in the prophecy of Isaiah, he believes that God will be with him, as he accepts this new responsibility.
So what about us, what would be our reaction to an encounter with God? And let us not fool ourselves, each one of us continuously has an encounter with God, we just might be too busy, too anxious, too stressed, or too self-centered to hear him speaking to us. And he is speaking to us, through his Word. He is present to us through the Eucharist; he feed us and strengthens us through the Body and Blood of Christ, in communion. He is in each of our hearts, through the Holy Spirit; calling us as he called St. Paul; “to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God. Through the Holy Spirit “we have received the grace of apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith, for the sake of his name, “ Emmanuel “God is with us;” Jesus: “Yahweh is salvation;” Christ “the anointed,” “the Messiah.”
In the days remaining before Christmas, let us all try for just a few minutes to be still; Yes, I know, easier said than done! But we really need to prepare our hearts for the coming of our Lord, to see the signs of His Presence among us, and within us; and to accept the call to be holy and receive the grace and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.