Happy Fourth Sunday of Advent. There is just one short week until the joy of Christmas! Our first reading this weekend from the Book of Isaiah involves King Ahaz and the prophet Isaiah. King Ahaz is a young King of Judah, that is to say, the southern Kingdom. During the rule of King David, the Kingdom was unified under one banner and lived in relative peace and security. However, after David dies, the kingdom of Israel eventually spirals downhill and they forget the great things God has done for them and they lose their way. The Kingdom eventually has a civil war in which the kingdom splits in two. In the north, there is the Kingdom of Israel and in the south, there is the Kingdom of Judah. The once capital of the unified Israel Jerusalem, where the Temple is, is located in the southern kingdom of Judah. Ahaz, living in the 8th century BC, is the king of the southern Kingdom of Judah.
The history of these two kingdoms is important because when the civil war breaks out and the kingdom splits in two, other neighboring kingdoms who are much larger begin to take notice of this fractured, lost people and begin to plot to take over the land. It is because the leaders Judah and Israel lose their way and forget God’s greatness that eventually they are conquered. And they remain conquered until and even after the time of Jesus.
The first reading today is a troubling reading. Isaiah, the prophet, tells Ahaz, the young king, to ask whatever he wants from God and He will do it for him. Even though the people of Israel and Judah (especially the leaders) have forgotten God, He has not forgotten them. He still desires to be their God. He still desires to be WITH them. (Here - a tangent - this philosophy still applies to us today. No matter how many times we forget God or question Him and His will or abandon Him - He never forgets us, or abandons us. He loves us without restriction or reservation). Ahaz’s response to the prophet is, “I will not tempt the Lord”. AKA - “I will not ask anything from God because I don’t want to burden Him.” AKA - “I don’t need His help”. Ahaz has completely lost his way and believes he doesn’t need God’s help. He can do it himself. The promise of God in response to Ahaz is that “The virgin shall be with child and shall name him Emmanuel.”
This response probably seemed at the time to be somewhat weird. Ahaz doesn’t want God’s help or his peace and security He offered his descendant David. God’s promise is that not only will He give His peace and security, He will give the people the very gift of Himself - Emmanuel, meaning “God is with us”. God offers to His people the opposite of what they want, but precisely what they NEED. The lost people, who don’t want God’s help, will receive the gift of the Son whose sole purpose is to show the people just how close the Father wants to be to His people. “And the Word was made flesh”.
The gift of Jesus at Christmas is the gift of the Father showing us how much He desires to be WITH us. The only thing we have to do is humble ourselves to receive this gift with open hearts to His presence. The only thing we have to do is NEED Him in the depths of our souls. And we do need Him. Every single one of us needs Him. Sometimes we don’t feel that we do but that matters very little. What matters is that HE desires to be with us. He desires to give of Himself to us. It is His will and desire that matters most. The virgin giving birth to the Child is the beginning of this eternal offer of the Father. We are not like King Ahaz, who doesn’t need God. We are a people who do need “God with us”, and we are grateful for the Father’s love through His Son.
May the Lord give you His Peace,