This week read Psalm 77 and: Monday Isaiah 7:10-17 Tuesday Matthew 1:18-25 Wednesday Isaiah 40:1-11, 28-31 Thursday Ezekiel 34:11-16 Friday Isaiah 9:1-7 Saturday Philippians 4:4-9 Sunday Micah 5:1-4, Hebrews 10:5-10, Psalm 80:1-7, Luke 1:39-55
Here is a prayer for each morning:
Baraku את Yahuah, ha’me’verach l’olam vaed, asher natan lanu את pathach ha’malchuth shamayim B’Mashiach.
Blessed are you Jehovah, forever and ever, for giving us the doorway to the Kingdom of heaven in Messiah.
It is one of the Hebrew prayers of Shabbat and it seems to fit so well with our readings this week.
Doris and I have been married 44 years. When you have been with someone that long you have to work at being conversational. I mean, let’s face it, we pretty much have said all there is to say by now and to do much talking at all takes a little effort. One of our tricks is “the best” game. We will leave a movie and I will ask. “What was the best part of that movie?” I usually have to say the Pepsi and the Raisinettes don’t count. We will finish a weekend away and, on the ride home she will ask, “What was your favorite part of the weekend?” (I usually say the Pepsi and the Raisinettes.) After church I ask, “What was the best song we sang?” She will ask, “What was the best part of Pastor Bryce’s sermon?” Of, course it’s a trick question because it is all so good you can’t pick a best part. 😊 (In case PB is reading this.)
You understand the game. What is your favorite restaurant? Where is the best place we’ve ever lived? Who do you think Caleb loves the most? Those kinds of questions that keep the conversation going and help us cover the miles more quickly or enjoy the dinner even more. Again, after 44 years we usually know what the other is going to say. We can guess pretty well our choices. So, imagine our surprise when we both blurted out the very same answer to one of those questions last week. We were driving across Murfreesboro, Christmas songs on the radio, Christmas decorations all over the place, and I asked, without warning. “What is your favorite Christmas word?” Almost like I had said, “1 2 3,” we both responded at the very same time, “Immanuel.” Isn’t that funny? Of all the words, Joy, Peace, Gifts, Santa, Pepsi and Raisinettes, we both chose this word, not even the most popular word I imagine, but this word, Immanuel, to be our favorite.
If we only had the Isaiah passage from today, we might not even know what that word means. And we sure might not think it was our favorite. Ahaz is a bad king, actually one of the worst. He leads Judah on a path that takes them away from God. He builds pagan temples and erects idols to false gods. He even sacrifices his own son to the Moloch, the Canaanite god that required such things. Now Judah is facing destruction from civil war with Israel to the north and Aram, modern day Syria. Ahaz is scared and God sends Isaiah to him to tell him everything will be okay. Isaiah even says that Ahaz can ask God for a sign but Ahaz says no. Sounds good but it is a mark of his arrogance that he is not going to turn to the God of Judah now. So, Isaiah says, “Okay, God will give you a sign anyway. A virgin will have a baby and His name will be Immanuel.” That could mean, “We’re all gonna’ die,” for all we know or, “You should have listened to me.” It might not be on anybody’s favorite Christmas word list. Except for Matthew.
700 years later, Matthew sits down to write the Christmas story and he thinks, “I better explain that.” He writes in Matthew 1:22-23, “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: ‘The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call Him Immanuel’ (which means GOD WITH US.)” Wow, there it is. Finally, after all these centuries we understand the Name, God With Us. When the enemy is knocking at the door, God With Us. When the people in charge are not leading well, God With Us. When it looks like this is the end, God With Us. And everything the Name meant in Isaiah’s time, and in Matthew’s time, it means in our time.
When COVID just won’t go away, God With Us. When the world seems more divided and more godless than ever, God With Us. When my marriage is struggling, my finances are tanking, my health seems to be taking a turn for the worse, God With Us. Immanuel is just about the best Christmas word ever. It may be the best ever word ever. It is certainly a word I need to hold on to today. With all the things going on around me, and all the thoughts happening in my little head, Immanuel is a pretty good word. So, today, whatever you are facing, I have a word for you. It’s one of my favorites. Immanuel. God is with you. He loves you. And He has your very best interest at heart. Remember that word all day.
And, oh, PoppyC. The answer to “Who does Caleb love the most?” is PoppyC.
See you tomorrow.