Yesterday, our Sunday, can only be adjectivized as extraordinary. Well, no, splendiferous also fits, doesn’t it. Like our Lessons & Carols service last Wednesday evening, December 11 was a you had to be there day. That’s not all I can say, but it’s all I’m going to say. Wow, now I understand.
Holy Smoke! and I’m sparing with exclamation points.
As for some months, I left immediately after to take Communion to a family dear friends since 1950, so don’t know what happened after the ten-thirty Confirmation and HC, but it couldn’t have been other then exuberant.
Moving on, for next Sunday, Advent Four, we have more scripture of the season, a passage that the Christian community, at least as far back as Matthew, has taken as messianic prophecy:
Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz, saying, 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. 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. For before the child knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land before whose two kings you are in dread will be deserted.”
It’s a piece of work from the eighth century BC day of kings of Judah and kings of Israel that originally had nothing discernible to do with Messiah, Greek Χριστός, English Christ, except that of course the king was מָשִׁ֫יחַ mashiach, the anointed one, king Ahaz in this passage, but others not excluding foreign kings, interestingly later also in Isaiah (45:1) where in the oracle, יְהוָ֥ה calls the Persian king Cyrus “his anointed,” in the LXX, Christos translated “his Christ.”
But wandering, I'll stray farther. I remember in Mr. Weeks’ senior World History class at Bay High, when the Revised Standard Version of the Bible came out, the outrage of one I regarded as a religious fanatic was that in the RSV, הָעַלְמָ֗ה (almah, girl, maiden, virgin young woman) the KJV word “virgin” had been rendered “young woman.” Age seventeen and looking around the room at all the cute girls and smitten with two, I was much interested in almah and not much in Bible translations. But many regarded Isaiah 7:14 as a cornerstone of the Doctrine of the Virgin Birth, and now the RSV (this was 1952) Bible scholars seeming to challenge all that was holy; but as in fact Matthew (1:22-23) did treat it: 22 τοῦτο δὲ ὅλον γέγονεν ἵνα πληρωθῇ τὸ ῥηθὲν [k]ὑπὸ κυρίου διὰ τοῦ προφήτου λέγοντος· 23 Ἰδοὺ ἡ παρθένος ἐν γαστρὶ ἕξει καὶ τέξεται υἱόν, καὶ καλέσουσιν τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ Ἐμμανουήλ· ὅ ἐστιν μεθερμηνευόμενον Μεθ’ ἡμῶν ὁ θεός, where παρθένος, Matthew’s NT Greek word parthenos does mean virgin (remember the Parthenon, temple of the vestal virgins) and clearly meant virgin to Matthew, or at least Matthew, using the Septuagint, rendered it specifically to mean virgin. So, while it isn’t central in my faith, it is to many, and passing through 81, I better appreciate the pain of my classmate Leroy than I did at nearly 18.
At any event, our gospel for Sunday, Advent Four, Year A, properly honors Matthew:
Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 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,” which means, “God is with us.”
When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus.