Jesiah 7 10-14, Romans 1 1-7, Matthew 1 18-24 God with us...
"I'm not asking for a sign; I don't want to test the Lord." King Ahaz's refusal sounds noble and respectful, but that respect for God is ambiguous. By not testing God, Ahaz immediately prevents him from being tested by God. If there is no intervention from God, King Ahaz himself can rule the way he wants, autonomously. If we silence God and not let him into our lives, that God cannot ask us for any unpleasant things. Then God can no longer bother us and we can do our own good. Asking nothing to God has its advantages, so we don't run the risk of calling us, testing us, claiming us.
But it is not that simple, God cannot stop you. "That's why the Lord gives a sign without being asked." God cannot be silenced. Where people close a door, God opens a window or a back door. God works in mysterious ways. "See the young woman will give birth to a son." God begins a new future, where there seemed to be no future. Where the situation seemed hopeless, God makes a new beginning, a new creation.
The stories in the Bible bear witness to the fact that God makes a new start with his people. From the chaos in which no life is possible, God creates a new earth. The very old Abraham and Sara will have a son Isaac. Moses has no chance of life, but is taken out of the water with a basket. Later, God brought the same Moses and his people from Egypt through the water to the Promised Land. The dead water becomes baptismal water. The barren Hannah becomes the mother of Samuel, a called one, created against the course of nature. Elisabeth and Zacharias, very old and barren, give birth to John the Baptist. The Bible speaks of a row of wonderfully born children, virgin-born, called to fulfill God's will, to be a sign of a new beginning.
Where human work fails, God's work begins. A virgin will become pregnant. Not a forced sign by human power, but a received sign, a gift from God. That is my interpretation of creation from scratch and of virgin birth.
Joseph is a righteous man and Mary is a servant girl of the Lord, they keep the door open for God, but that is a risk because it changes their lives. Joseph and Mary go a different way than they had wanted. The child is not born in the manner of the children of Eve, but from the Holy Spirit. Joseph and Mary accept God's work. They do not act like King Ahaz who puts God out of play, Joseph and Mary give space to God, but that will also prove them a hard test!
Mary and Joseph stand here as an example for all people who come into contact with God. In the beginning there is little joy to taste, there is wonder and even fear. It is all too new, too unexpected what God wants to give us. Yet Joseph and Mary trust that God would turn everything around for the better.
God wants to enter the world of people, but then he also asks their full cooperation. This is how God has come to his people in the past, and now he wants to enter our lives: with the help and full cooperation of us who leave him room to give signs, who try to understand his will and who are willing to to make the sacrifices he requests.
God is concerned with his creation, but we have the freedom to allow him or her into our lives. Man is not alone, God wants to be close to us, God wants to make history with his people, but then we have to let him into our lives and help build his Kingdom of peace.
In the Bible, names are always of great importance, they indicate an assignment, a life program, the name says who you are. It is the same with the names we give to God. His name is first and foremost Yahweh and that means: He who was there for his people, he who is there for us, he who will be there, also tomorrow and again and again, and he who does be who creates where we fail. There is Someone for us people, we are not alone, there is a God who wants to save us from our sins. That is the meaning of Jesus: Yahweh saves.
"And they shall call him Immanuel. That is, in translation, God-with-us." Indeed, God always wants people to be close again. Where everything seems hopeless and without a future, he makes a new start. God does not close his ears to the cry of this world, he hears the misery of his people. Jesus does not reject the world, he wants to be close to the world and give it a new life. Jesus is close to people and the world. He is God with us.
So we don't have to be afraid. Just like Joseph, the angel says to us: "Do not be afraid." We can trust in God and then he will make the impossible possible. Joseph conquered his fear through his love for Mary. Jesus overcame the fear of the cross through his love for the people. Love makes people brave. The more love we have, the more we will overcome our fears. Those who are afraid stay at a distance. He who fears God also keeps him at a safe distance. Sometimes you hear people say they don't experience or see God anywhere. Perhaps it is because they do not dare to entrust themselves to him, as Mary and Joseph did. God does not answer all our questions, God is not a source of prosperity, God does not fill the gaps, God is always the totally different one, but he is the foundation of our existence, he calls us to live courageously and meaningfully, but we must dare to entrust ourselves to him in good and bad days.
Do we allow that love into our lives or is it out of play? May God enter our lives? Are we ready for the Christmas event in our life: the new beginning, the new life, a sign given to us: love to the utmost, God-with-us?
Father Ed Bakker,
Anglican Catholic Church/Original Province
Mission of Saint Aidan of Lindisfarne,
Launceston on Tasmania,