Reflections for the Week of Sunday December 18, 2016 Fourth of Advent

Gospel: Mt 1.18-25 tells of the conception of the Lord Jesus in Mary who was a virgin as prophesied in Isa 7.10-14. ‘Jesus’ means ‘to save His people from their sins’, and He would be called Emmanuel which means ‘God with us.’ This fourth and last week of Advent we conclude our reflections on the OT as prelude to the coming of Christ who would be ‘God with us.’

Israel was given the Torah by I AM through Moses at Mt Sinai as a catechetical instruction to inform Israel about I AM’s nature and how Israel could please Him. In her covenants with Him Israel promised to obey the principles of Torah to express her gratitude to I Am for having elected her, but her good intentions were insufficient. Israel had a fallen nature dating back to Adam’s fall, and her sin nature made it impossible for her to please I AM. Not only did the people displease YHWH but the priests and Levites were corrupt. God’s disappointment with their behavior led to the fall of the northern kingdom and the exile of Judah to Babylon. The prophets began to speak of something new coming, a new day when God would give His people a new heart (Ezek 36.26ff), would write the Torah on their hearts (Jer 31.31-34), and pour out His Spirit on all flesh (Joel 2.28,29) so that believers would want to please Him and would be able to obey Him. In the meantime God in His disapproval of the priests and Levites left the Temple altogether (Ezek 10.1, 4, 18; 11.22-25). Mal 3.1f promised that God would return to the temple but it would be a day of judgment. These prophecies were to be fulfilled by the advent of the Messiah. He would be born of a virgin (Isa 7.10-14) and would be a Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace (Isa 9.6-9) who would begin to take away Israel’s sin and enable her to obey I AM from the heart. As Israel awaits the fulfillment of these divine promises, she could not imagine that the Messiah would be born to a humble peasant girl in a stable, and that He would have to be a Suffering Servant (Isa 53), and would have to die on a cross to redeem His people. Who could have imagined that God Himself would pay the penalty incurred by His wayward people? Who could imagine that the prophetic promises would be fulfilled by the Spirit of the Messiah Himself coming to dwell in His people after being released by the crucifixion? As Advent comes to a close, and as the OT comes to a close, the incredible plan of God begins to be fulfilled by the Savior who will be born on the day we celebrate the Mass of Christ. On this day the fully divine Son is incarnated as the fully human Savior. He will bring remission of sins, atonement with the Father, redemption from Satan, sin, and death, adoption into the covenant family of God, and the power to live lives pleasing to God and abundantly fulfilling to believers in terms of love, joy, peace, and the other fruit of the Spirit, and the Beatitudes. As Scott Redd says In Table Talk December 2016 p. 18, “Every time we proclaim Jesus as Messiah, High Priest, True Vine (a reference to His identity as true Israel), Atoning Sacrifice, Immanuel, Creator, and Redeemer we are committing the sacred act of Apostolic remembering [the OT]. At its core, the Apostolic teaching in the NT is an inspired remembrance and understanding of the teaching of the OT in light of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Memory Verse: Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth….[and] they who wait on the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint (Isa 40.28, 31).

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