Focal Passage: Isaiah
7:10-17; 8:1-4, 19; 9:2-7
Today many churches begin
the celebration of Advent, preparing for Christmas and the “Coming of
Christ.” Stores are already filled
with Christmas gifts, and everywhere Christmas music can be heard. Signs of
Christmas preparation are all around us.
My grandmother Hazel Bryant
worked at Quality Mills, a textile mill, on Franklin Street in Mount Airy.
Watching her money carefully, she would begin purchasing Christmas presents for
her three children, their spouses, the eleven grandchildren, and two
step-grandchildren, weeks in advance before Christmas. Her gifts were practical
and appreciated — underwear and shirts.
A month before Christmas,
she would buy her stick candy and other Christmas needs.
A week before Christmas,
pies and cakes would begin to appear — some we could try and some waited for
Christmas (like her fruitcake that needed to age — I always felt like it was
old enough just out of the oven).
If the Christmas festivities
demand preparation, and they do, then certainly the richness of the message
demands a thorough spiritual preparation. The incarnation of God in Christ,
after all, has theological riches worthy of exploration.
This first message of Advent
deals with the prophetic witness to the coming Christ.
Roger Nicole lists 224
direct citations from the Old Testament in the New Testament and cites Toy who
lists an additional 613 allusions to the OT in the NT (“New Testament Use of
the Old Testament,” Revelation and the Bible, Ed. Carl F. H. Henry, Baker,
1958, 137-151; an up-to-date source is the “Index of Allusions and Verbal
Parallels” found in the Greek New Testament, 4th Rev. Ed. By Aland et al, UBS,
2007, 891). Many of these citations and allusions are used by NT authors who
are convinced that Jesus of Nazareth is the promised Messiah of the OT prophets,
In him, the echoes of a
dozen prophetic voices find in his first coming and will find in his second
coming ultimate fulfillment.
John Oswalt places Isaiah
7-9 within the context of the question of “Whom Shall We Trust?” (The Book of
Isaiah, Chapters 1-39, Eerdmans, 1986, 192).
Hebrew Kings often found
themselves making decisions that ignored the reality of an
ever-present-and-faithful God and seeking security through alliances with
neighboring kingdoms. Prophets tried to remind the kings that faithfulness to
God and dependence on His strength were the keys to a secure future.
In this Christmas season
when many Americans are struggling to make financial ends meet, the future
seems at best uncertain. Where can we place our confidence? It is in Immanuel declaring, “God is
with us — you and me!” He is “Wonderful Counselor.” Will you not ask him for