Tuesday, December 25, 2018

The Virgin's Son

Isaiah 7:10-14 The Lord spoke to Ahaz: “Ask a sign of the Lord your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven.” But Ahaz said, “I will not ask, and I will not put the Lord to the test.” And he said, “Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary men, that you weary my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.
The LORD spoke to Ahaz.  It may not be readily apparent, but there is profound comfort for each and every one of us in those words!
There is the promise that no matter how far we have fallen, no matter how great our sin, no matter the distance between ourselves and God:  the LORD is always ready to reach out to us in love—even to someone as terrible as Ahaz.
There is really no way to adequately convey to you what an evil man Ahaz was.  He was a king of God’s people who led the entire nation away from God.  He never turned to God in his need and instead sought out help from the pagan nations around him.
He burned his own children alive in worship to pagan gods and he established pagan worship places among God’s people so that they could follow his hateful example. 
His sins were really beyond imagination and what was even worse is that he led God’s people into spiritual slaughter by causing them to abandon their Savior God.
He was as evil a man as can be found in the Bible and yet…God loved him.  God loved him.  Can you imagine such a thing! 
Now please understand, God did not love his sin—not at all!  He hated it with a holy, righteous, burning hatred. 
But he loved Ahaz-- and so long as Ahaz was still among the living there was still hope for him to repent of his sins- and turn to his Savior- and lead his people in the way of life.  And so the LORD spoke to him with words of warning and promise.
To every person assembled here today—whether you are a so-called “Christmas and Easter” Christian who only make it to church on those days—whether you have been dragged here by your wife or mother and grandmother to keep the peace in the family—whether you are someone who struggles with a besetting sin and never seems to make any progress in being done with it:  no matter who you are, no matter what you have done—God loves you and he speaks to you today in his Word so that you might hear his voice and know his love.  The Bible says:
The Lord spoke to Ahaz:  “Ask a sign of the Lord your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven.”
            Ahaz had big plans for himself and for the nation he ruled.  He thought he had everything worked out so that he could preserve his reign and his fortune.  He formed alliances with greater nations than his own and he was certain that he would come out on top in the conflicts to come.
But all of this he had done without consulting the LORD who had other plans.  Even in those dark moments, even when Ahaz had abandoned the LORD and encouraged the people to do the same, the LORD promised that he would be their deliverer—that they didn’t need to rely on armies or alliances—that he was still their Savior God and could be counted on to save them.
And what’s more, he made Ahaz an incredible offer:  ask of me any sign you choose—anything at all whether it reaches the heights of heaven or the depths of earth and I will bring it to bear so that you can know and believe that I am the God who saves. Just ask me for a sign.
Our lives may seem pretty far removed from Ahaz --but his way of thinking is familiar to us. 
When we have a job and money in the bank—when our kids are healthy and happy—when we have big plans for our future and all that we want to accomplish—we may think that we have the world by the tail, but we need to ask ourselves the question Ahaz should have asked himself:  where is God in all this?  Have I sought his will for my life?  Am I going in his ways?  Is my only need of God to get a divine stamp of approval on what I want to do?
For Ahaz and for us, the LORD wants us to turn to him—to see in him alone our hopes and plans for the future and to trust that he will truly bring the blessings we need. 
And so what was Ahaz’s response to the LORD’s invitation to ask for a sign?  Ahaz said, “I will not ask, and I will not put the Lord to the test.”  At first glance this may seem very pious.  It is true that we shouldn’t demand a sign from the LORD.  The promises of the LORD should be more than enough to earn our faith and trust.
But it was the LORD himself who offered the sign.  And Ahaz refused.  Dear friends in Christ, I cannot begin to tell you what a terrible, faithless thing it is to refuse the signs that the LORD himself gives so that we can know and believe and lay hold of his love for us.
Think about God’s Word and Sacraments.  Much more than mere signs of God’s love—they are the very substance of that love set before our eyes and ears so that we might know the goodness and mercy of our Savior God.  And yet, what is our attitude towards them?
Do we eagerly open our Bible each day so that we might hear the voice of the living God of the universes who stands ready in every moment to encourage us and guide us and empower us with his Word?
Do we reclaim for ourselves each day (with the sign of the cross) the promises of our Holy Baptism:  that we have died with Christ and been raised with Christ so that we might walk with him in newness of life? 
Do we treasure the Sacrament of the Altar where we are given the very Body and Blood of Christ so that we might know that the One who died for the world on the cross also died for us, personally and individually?
Are we glad for every opportunity to gather among God’s people in this place to worship the LORD who goes far beyond the gift of mere signs to give us the very substance of his saving love?
We may look with scorn upon the lack of faith and false piety of someone like Ahaz, but while we do, we must also look at our own hearts and ask ourselves:  have I wearied the LORD with my own unwillingness to receive the gifts he stands ready to give?  Isaiah said:
“Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary men, that you weary my God also?
            My dad was a pretty patient guy but when he told us kids, “I am getting sick and tired of that” you had better pay attention.  That’s what that Hebrew word means when Isaiah says that Ahaz and the whole people of God had “wearied” the LORD.
The LORD didn’t have a short fuse.  The LORD had simply had enough.  These words were spoke after centuries of disobedience—after centuries of un-kept promises from his people to change—after centuries going the way of the world and following after false gods. 
And now, when the LORD stood ready one more time to come to their aid and give them salvation from their enemies, they turned their backs on his promises and rejected his sign and the LORD had simply had enough.
We know that moment had come for Ahaz and his people-- but we don’t know when that moment will come for us. 
And so we have to ask ourselves:  what am I doing that is wearying the Lord?  What promises am I rejecting, what signs am I neglecting, that would lead the LORD to say of me:  enough is enough?  I want you to hear now the LORD’s solution to the sins of Ahaz and Allan and all of you too.
The Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.
Is that not the most remarkable, wonderful, comforting thing that you have ever heard?!  The Lord’s way of dealing with the faithlessness of Ahaz; the Lord’s way of dealing with a people on the wrong path; the Lord’s way of dealing with our sins and our allegiances with the world-- is the gift of a Son—given by the LORD himself in the most miraculous and wonderful way!
This was the Seed of the Woman promised to Eve (in the beginning) who would undo the destructive forces of sin and Satan and Isaiah promised that he would come into the world from the womb of a Virgin.  He would be given the name Jesus:  the LORD who saves-- and he would be our Immanuel, the God who is with us. 
Far, far from abandoning us to our sins--far, far from turning his back on us because of our wayward ways-- the LORD sent his Son into the world to be our Savior.
On Christmas day we rejoice in the birth of the Virgin’s Son.  It is a sweet and tender scene that fills our eyes of faith.  But we can never forget the reason why his birth was needed at all:  it was to die for our sins and the sin of the world.
Jesus Christ, the Virgin’s Son is the enduring sign of the love God has for us despite our sins—the Good News in human flesh that God is not done with us but desires that each of us would return to him with all our heart.  God grant it for Jesus’ sake.  Amen.

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