Last week we looked briefly at the spiritual discipline of discernment: being aware of God and his guidance as we choose what truly matters. Today as we consider Mary the mother of Jesus, we see another spiritual discipline: surrender. This is accepting God’s plan and moving into his will—which often involves letting a few things go.
You may have a chance to let a few things go this week, and they might be a few readings in this book! The length of the fourth week of Advent varies, depending on the year. In 2017, for example, the fourth Sunday of Advent is Christmas Eve. So in 2017, you won’t read every day of the fourth week—in fact, you can stop right here and jump into the Christmas Eve reading!
Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19
Psalm 80: “Enthroned above the cherubim” refers to the carvings on the Ark of the Covenant in the Jewish temple. To the Israelites, the Ark was the symbol of God’s presence with them.
Isaiah 7: Isaiah was speaking to King Ahaz, who was being threatened by the nation of Syria as well as the tribe of Ephraim. God gave Isaiah a prophecy that ultimately would be fulfilled in Jesus Christ, the son of a virgin and yet God in human flesh. This prophecy also had a more immediate fulfillment for Ahaz and his people. A woman who was a virgin at this time would marry and have a child whose name would be “Emmanuel.” Bible Scholar Warren Wiersbe suggests that this virgin would soon become Isaiah’s second wife. Within twelve years of Isaiah speaking this prophecy, Assyria defeated Syria and invaded the territory of Ephraim. Read more of Isaiah 7 to see the details surrounding this prophecy.
Romans 1:1-7 is a wonderful summary of the gospel story. This is what we’ve been focused on in Advent—God’s promises to send a Messiah. (Read about this in Wiersbe’s Old Testament Commentary.)
Matthew 1:18-24: The name “Jesus” tells us what Jesus will do (the name means “God saves”) and the messianic description “Immanuel” explains who he will be (“God with us”). Matthew begins his book with this “with you” theme.
My treasure today is the word “unexpected.”
…Stir up your might and come to save us! (Psalm 80:2)
Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. (Isaiah 7:14)
…You shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:
“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us). (Matthew 1:21-25)
…Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 1:7)
“Stir up your strength and come to save us,” Israel cried out, expecting a mighty military Messiah. But you, Lord, came as a baby who grew into a teacher and a healer.
“Restore us, O Lord, God of hosts,” they prayed, hoping for someone to make their country independent once more. Instead, you came as a carpenter to rebuild your people’s faith.
Lord, you always come in such unexpected ways. Help me to be so surrendered to you that I can trust your grace and peace during disappointments and interruptions.
Today I’m sharing a hymn that I found very confusing when I was a kid. However, the tune was so beautiful that I always enjoyed it anyway. The first verses are a fifteenth century hymn that pictures Jesus as a rose, growing from a tender stem. They were referring to a prophecy of Isaiah, which stated that the family of Jesse (the father of King David), would eventually bear a new and powerful descendant:
There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse,
and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.
And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him,
the Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and might,
the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.
And his delight shall be in the fear of the LORD.
He shall not judge by what his eyes see,
or decide disputes by what his ears hear,
but with righteousness he shall judge the poor,
and decide with equity for the meek of the earth;
and he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth,
and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.
Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming
Lo, how a Rose e’er blooming from tender stem hath sprung!
Of Jesse’s lineage coming, as men of old have sung.
It came, a floweret bright, amid the cold of winter,
When half spent was the night.
Isaiah ’twas foretold it, the Rose I have in mind;
With Mary we behold it, the virgin mother kind.
To show God’s love aright, she bore to men a Savior,
When half spent was the night.
The shepherds heard the story proclaimed by angels bright,
How Christ, the Lord of glory was born on earth this night.
To Bethlehem they sped and in the manger found Him,
As angel heralds said.
This Flower, whose fragrance tender with sweetness fills the air,
Dispels with glorious splendor the darkness everywhere;
True Man, yet very God, from sin and death He saves us,
And lightens every load.
O Savior, Child of Mary, who felt our human woe,
O Savior, King of glory, who dost our weakness know;
Bring us at length we pray, to the bright courts of Heaven,
And to the endless day!
–15th cen¬tu¬ry German car¬ol (Es ist ein Ros ent¬sprung¬en); vers¬es 1-2 trans¬lat¬ed from Ger¬man to Eng¬lish by The¬o¬dore Bak¬er, 1894. Verses 3-4, Fried-rich Lay¬ritz, trans¬lat¬ed by Har¬ri¬et Rey¬nolds Krauth, 1875. Verse 5, trans¬lat¬ed or writ¬ten by John C. Mat¬tes, 1914, quoted at cyberhymnal.org
Photo Credit: Henk Bouma