Sunday, December 18, 2016

The Prophet Isaiah
By Benjamin Straley

In our places of worship this morning, we likely heard the following the following passages:

"Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel." (Isaiah 7.14)

"All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: "Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel."" (Matthew 1.22, 23)

The prophet Isaiah is speaking a message of hope to his people in a time of uncertainty - that God is still with us.  The divinity school student in me freely acknowledges that when this was written, Isaiah was not talking about Jesus. And yet, the narrative arc of a people and of a nation extends far beyond the immediate moment, or any one given time.

I often wonder what the founders of this nation would think if they could see our country today: had they even thought it would last one hundred years? Maybe. Maybe not.  The words they spoke about equality, freedom, and the pursuit of happiness were not fully realized in their time, but they were a vision to be pursued, even if they could not see the full implications at that time.

When Matthew quotes the prophet Isaiah in his Gospel, he, together with the burgeoning Christian community, have come to realize the fulfillment of Isaiah's promise that God would dwell with his people - the consummation of that hope that was begun in Abraham (or from the foundations of the world, we might argue!), finding its enfleshment in Jesus.

Could Isaiah have foreseen as radical a fulfillment of his words as the Incarnation? Perhaps. Perhaps not. Whatever the case, I pray that we may all, in times of uncertainty or strife, have the confidence and strength to see that our very particular hopes for this world extend and continue beyond our immediate moments in history - and that they may just exist outside of our own lifetimes. But hope we must.  How blessed are we that our greatest hope, Jesus our Lord, has already come to us.

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