Sign: A Baby

group of babiesAdvent 4A – Sign: A Baby
December 21-22, 2013
Isaiah 7:10-16
Matthew 1:18-25

King Ahaz of Judah is in trouble…
The armies of Syria and Ephraim have joined together.
They have formed an alliance and are ready to attack.

Ahaz and his people are nervous…
Actually they’re scared!
Isaiah says they are so terrified – they are shaking like leaves on the trees!

God speaks to his prophet Isaiah and says,
“I know that Ahaz is afraid.
Go to him…
In fact, both you and your son, go to him
and tell him not to be afraid.

Tell him….Yes, the kingdoms of Syria and Ephraim are plotting against you.
They are threatening to overthrow you…
but listen to me – it will not take place!
It will not happen!

God continues…”This is difficult to believe…but it is true!
Tell Ahaz to ask for a sign…even a miracle!”

But Ahaz says to Isaiah (maybe with some false piety),
“No, I don’t want to ask for a sign – I don’t want to challenge God – I can trust God without signs.”

And then I think Isaiah gives a rather a humorous line I think,
“Isn’t enough that you weary all of us mortals, that you weary God also?”
And he thinks – “This is someone else who thinks he has to be so strong on his own!”

“Ahaz,” Isaiah says, “You will receive a sign anyway…
a young woman is about to conceive and will give birth to a son.
She will call him Immanuel” which means “God with us.”

Protesting all of the way, Ahaz receives a sign of God’s presence…
And what is this sign?
It is not a sign of victory.
It is not a sign of power.
It is not a sign of wealth or fame.
It is a sign of hope…the sign is a baby.

When God chooses to give a sign to Ahaz,
when God want to assure Ahaz of God’s presence, that God is with him,
God chooses a baby….a baby.

These weeks in Advent we’ve been looking at many images through the book of Isaiah.
That first weekend, we placed a plow here
and saw with Isaiah an image of peace …
when weapons will be turned into plows.

On the second weekend of Advent,
remember the stump of a tree with a rose coming out of it.
We saw with Isaiah an image of new life coming out of death.

Last week, there was a small fountain on our table,
and we prayed with Isaiah for God to quench our thirst with living water.

Today, this modern-day playpen – this pack-‘n- play- reminds us that there is a sign of hope.
Isaiah tells us about the sign of a baby, a child born in the midst of turmoil.
Immanuel – God with us.

Children are often signs of hope…

When there has been a death in the family,
the presence of a young child passed around from one to another –
reminds us of God’s presence – Immanuel – God with us,
and we can smile if just for a moment.

When tragedy strikes – children help us bear the burden.
Many of us remember where we were on 9/11…
I was in a hospital nursery checking up on a newborn baby.
Whenever we commemorate an anniversary of that awful day –
one month, six months, one year, five years, ten years,
I think of that baby, who despite the tragedy on the day of her birth
was smiling at the one month anniversary;
who was sitting up at the six month anniversary;
who was walking at one year;
who was starting Kindergarten at five years and middle school at ten.
That little girl born on 9/11 is a living sign of hope – a reminder of Immanuel – God with us even on that day.

Children all around the world are signs of hope.
Bishop Munib Younan of the Lutheran church in Jordan and the Holy Land
often shares that when he becomes discouraged about the possibility
of peace in that war-torn part of the world,
it is the children who bring him hope.

The Lutheran School of Hope in Ramallah, which we support through our mission support,
allows Muslim and Christian children talk, learn, and play together.
Their working together with laughter is a sign of hope and reminds us of Immanuel – God with us.

When King Ahaz and the people of Judah are frightened.
God sends a sign of hope – and this sign is a child
a child named Immanuel – “God with us.”

When we are frightened or disturbed or grieving or hopeless,
God reminds us that we have received a sign of hope too.
God has given us a child named Emmanuel – “God is with us”

This morning as we continue our watch for the Christ child,
I close with this prayer for children from Marian Wright Edelman of the Children’s Defense Fund.
It is a prayer that we might recognize all children as signs from God –
signs of hope and God’s presence.

O God of the children of Somalia, Sudan, and Syria, of South Africa and South Carolina,
Of Afghanistan and Pakistan, and of India, Iraq, Iran, and Israel
Of the Congo and Chicago, of Darfur and Detroit
Of Myanmar and Mississippi and Louisiana and Yemen
Help us to love and respect and protect them all.

O God of Black and Brown and White and Albino children and those all mixed together,
Of children who are rich and poor and in between,
Of children who speak English and Russian and Hmong and Spanish and languages our ears cannot discern,
Help us to love and respect and protect them all.

O God of the child prodigy and the child prostitute, of the child of rapture and the child of rape,
Of runaway or thrown away children who struggle every day without parent or place or friend or future,
Help us to love and respect and protect them all.

O God of children who can walk and talk and hear and see and sing and dance and jump and play and of children who wish they could but can’t
Of children who are loved and unloved, wanted and unwanted,
Help us to love and respect and protect them all.

O God of beggar, beaten, abused, neglected, homeless, AIDS, drug, violence, and hunger-ravaged children,
Of children who are emotionally and physically and mentally fragile, and of children who rebel and ridicule, torment and taunt,
Help us to love and respect and protect them all.

O God of children of destiny and of despair, of war and of peace,
Of disfigured, diseased, and dying children,
Of children without hope and of children with hope to spare and to share,
Help us to love and respect and act to protect them all.

Dear God, help us to love and respect and act to protect
all signs of Immanuel – all signs of your presence among us. Amen.

–Copyright 2013 by Marian Wright Edelman

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