Advent Reflection 2022: 13th December

Isaiah 7: 10-16
Reading the commentaries on my shelf, it is almost impossible to get a clear understanding of what the writer of these verses originally meant. They seem to be saying that a young woman will show her faith and trust in God because the child born in a time of adversity will be named Immanuel (God is with us), a declaration that despite the destruction and despair she knows that God is with her and with God’s people. Rather like people call children Joy or Precious – reflecting their response to the gift of a child.

The writer tells us ‘Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel’. According to Otto Kaiser in his SCM Press commentary, we are to understand the word translated as young woman, as a young girl of marriageable age up to the birth of her first child. But these verses have been overlaid with two thousand years of Christian interpretation thanks to Matthew’s Gospel. Unfortunately, Matthew used the Greek translation and so we got virgin instead of young woman.

I feel I want to scream. Why does Mary have to remain ever virgin? What about the brothers and sisters of Jesus? Why is the church so frightened of sex, instead of seeing it as a gift and a delight? Something to be enjoyed and embraced?

Taking these verses seriously, God works through the young and inexperienced, and for us as Christians becomes incarnate through the wonder, joy, pain and danger of conception, pregnancy and birth – in all their fulness.

Peter Smith

Loving God,
help us to rejoice in the extraordinary ordinariness
of conception, pregnancy and birth.
Help us to remember that you choose
the least likely people to be your disciples.
And let us rejoice that you are indeed with all of us. Amen