Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. Isaiah 7: 14
Christmas is definitely in the air around our house! Last night I decorated the tree in our den in the basement! Unlike the one upstairs, it’s a real one, and the smell is so fresh and green. This one has a more warm, Christmas feel to it, and I love that it’s decorated with so many old ornaments that have become worn over time and each one holds a special meaning. All of them are valuable and priceless – some made by Kelly and Scott in preschool, school, or at church. Others were given to me by former students in my 31 years of teaching, and some were hand-me-down gifts from our mothers right after we married. Each one seems to have sweet memories of its own.
As I hung them on the tree, I began thinking about the stories Bob and I have told our kids and grandkids about these ornaments, about Christmases in our past and about the ones we have passed down from our parents and grandparents. Some of those told to us long ago have also become “faded” with time as we have forgotten many of the details. But how much we all enjoy hearing those stories that have been handed down through the years from generation to generation.
In thinking about these stories of the past, I wondered what God’s people must have thought as they heard the prophecy of the promised Messiah and the Savior of the world who was to come. How they must have cherished its telling, wanted to hear it over and over, and passed it on to their children and grandchildren with such hope and anticipation through the years.
At the time Isaiah first gave them this prophecy from God – 700 years before the Christ child was born – the nation of Judah was being attacked by other nations. Isaiah gave God’s promise to His people that He would overthrow the king and send them a “Savior”. To seal His promise, he offers the king a sign. This sign would prove that God would continue His covenant with His people to save and deliver them from their enemies. It was a promise that He would send a Savior in the form of a newborn child and the child would be named “Immanuel”, meaning “God is with us.”
But how the story must have changed as it was told and retold by the time such a baby was born into the world. The child came to us as the Son of God, our Savior and Messiah. Many parts of the story had been forgotten and He was not recognized by His own people. All they could remember was the promise that God would send a King to reign over them and to bring them freedom from oppression and justice for their enemies. They were looking for a Messiah – a great political, military, and spiritual leader – not a baby born in a lowly manger.
Sometimes what God has in mind for us is quite different than from what we want or expect. How grateful we are for the beautiful Christmas story of how Jesus, our Savior, came to us as a humble, newborn child.
Dear God, help us to keep our eyes focused on what this season truly means – that it’s not all about gifts, decorating, or feasting, but it’s about making room in our hearts for your Son, Jesus Christ. Thank you for this time to remember your gift of love and grace. Amen