Exminster Methodist Church, Main Road, Exminster EX6 8BT
Email email@example.com, Minister: Rev Julian Albrow, Telephone (01392) 255791
As we approach Advent and Christmas once again it is important to remind ourselves that the liturgy and festivals are not merely memorial celebrations of past events, but an actual participation in a continual truth…our church calendar is an eternal journey that we walk through again and again with Jesus Christ. It is always an opportunity to progress in our faith and to discover anew and afresh the Hope of Faith. ‘Then Isaiah said: ‘hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary mortals, that you weary my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign, look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel. He shall eat curds and honey by the time he knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good’. Isaiah 7: 13-15.
This passage comes from the prophet Isaiah who is trying to give confidence to King Ahaz, the king of Judah, who is under attack from Syria and Israel. We learn from 2 Kings that King Ahaz is terrified and indeed sacrifices his son to the gods and prepares for armed conflict. He has been condemned by the author of 2 Kings, so Isaiah’s task has been to try and get Ahaz to put his trust in Yahweh (Almighty God) and not in war and violence. To this end Isaiah encourages Ahaz to seek a sign. The nature of this sign he has been given is the gift of a child called ‘God with us’. It’s perhaps a reminder of the value of a son sacrificed as well as a reminder that there is no need to despair and panic, God is beside us. Ahaz for all his weakness is very much seen as the ‘House of David’ and even though he lacks confidence he is still given this sign. A woman will bear a son and shall name him Immanuel-‘God with us’. This child will seem to have a discipline of hardship, i.e. the curds and honey, that will teach him how to reject evil and choose good. In Matthews Gospel, this passage is picked as one of the first ten occasions where Matthew talks of scripture being fulfilled, or the words of the prophets being fulfilled. ‘all this took place to fulfil 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”, which means, “ God is with us” Matthew 1: 22-23. This is contained in the dream that Joseph has, about whether he should break off his relationship with Mary because she is pregnant. In this dream, Joseph is informed that Mary is the fulfilment of prophecy, and so too her son, Emmanuel, is a sign that ‘God is with us’. This is a theme that goes right through Matthew until his last words, when the disciples are with Jesus and he commissions them to ‘go and make disciples to all nations.’ Jesus adds, ‘Remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age’ a final echo of ‘God with us’.
Our Advent journey is a reflection of our entire faith journey, a time of waiting and watching, of praying ‘Come, Lord Jesus’ to different situations- yet with the ultimate knowledge that God is with us, in our lives, in our struggles, in our hopes and in our fears, and this is the incredible Good News of the Christmas message. Nothing can compare with the fact that God was with humanity in Palestine of old, and is with us today in bread and wine, in our daily encounters, and on the journey beside us. This is the message. God is not a distant God, cut off from humanity, but is ‘God with us’! So as we encounter Advent and Christmas once again, I pray we will be encouraged to recommit ourselves to His service.
God Bless, Julian