12.16.2010

Fourth Sunday in Advent, Year A

Isaiah 7:10-16 •
Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19 •
Romans 1:1-7 •
Matthew 1:18-25


We are all looking for different things. It seems like we spend a lot of time talking about individual context here......but it is true....we are all looking for different things.

Just ask two other folks you know what they think about God or Jesus and see if you come up with more than three answers among your three opinions.

When we read these four scriptures this week it is easy to see that they were written in four quite distinct contexts. And while there are many commonalities between what each was hoping for and expecting in / from a Savior (a person who Saves), there are some important differences.

The 7th chapter of Isaiah was written at a time when the Kingdom of Judah was caught between and among competing regional powers. Ahaz has made a political choice that threatens his position of power. As he prepares to be deposed by two other Kingdoms, Isaiah tries to reassure him and encourages him to ask God for a sign of deliverance. Ahas was looking for a military leader that would come and Save himself and all of Judah from ppressors. He sought Savior that would arise from within to Save Judah from an outside threat.

In Psalm 80 we also see a writer who is entreating God to Restore and Save the community from their physical and political enemies. The writer of this passage seems to be writing from a place of oppression (at least great distress) and is hoping for an intervention from God to Save them. AND THEN once they are saved "we will never turn back from you; give us life, and we will call on your name."

Interesting.

In the passage we get from the beginning of Paul's letter to the followers of Jesus in Rome, we can see that Paul was looking for something slightly different than his Israelite forebearers. In this passage he does not specifically mention a Savior or Being Saved, but he does give us his understanding of the Christological history up to that point. He understands that it was through Jesus that "we have recieved grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for the sake of his name." In this particular reading at least we seem to find Paul being grateful for Jesus the Savior because he inspired folks to Save the Gentiles.

And then in the passage from the first part of Matthew we find the conversation between Joseph and the Angel of the Lord concerning Mary's miraculous pregnancy. The angel tells Joseph his fiancee "will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will Save his people from their sins."

Notice the difference between the Salvation those in the New Testament readings were looking for? They were not looking for political Salvation or (at least in these passages) Salvation from an oppressor....they are hoping for someone that will Save them from themselves or from their Sins.

And what does that mean--to be Saved from our sins? It seems like a heavy statement. Are our sins the things in life that stand between us and God and Salvation from them will bring us back in to relationship with God? If that is true, then what does it matter if we are oppressed?

Or are our Hebrew friends correct and the primary need to be Saved from oppression because oppressed people cannot appropriately serve and follow God?

Maybe as history unfolds we are all looking to be Saved from different things. Maybe some days we need to be Saved from others and some days we need to be Saved from ourselves.

Yahweh, Creator, Light-bearer,
You know me.
You know my sin.
You know my heart.
Help me see
What you know
and help me look
for Salvation
from all oppression
(My Own and
That which Presses on Me).
Free me for service
to your Kingdom.
Amen.

© matt & laura norvell 2010 www.settingourstones.org
we want to share this with you and hope you'll share with the world;
we simply ask that you let people know where you found these words.
May Grace & Peace be with you.

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