Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz, saying, Ask a sign of the Lord your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven. But Ahaz said, I will not ask, and I will not put the Lord to the test. Then Isaiah said: ‘Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary mortals, that you weary my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel. He shall eat curds and honey by the time he knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good. For before the child knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land before whose two kings you are in dread will be deserted.
We have almost arrived. The fourth candle is now lit and we can properly consider the coming of Christ at Christmas. This holy anticipation is what makes Advent sacred time. Christmas is such a joy but let us first wait and prepare. Patience seems to elude us in December as we rush towards the 25th.
The Old Testament reading, if read fully, is provocative. We well know the sign of Jesus’ birth — “a young woman is with child” — but what of the next line: “He shall eat curds and honey by the time he knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good” (Isaiah 7:15)? This may be the Immanuel, God with us, but he is not a superman or alien who needs no earthly sustenance. Instead, this Immanuel will be a fully human baby with much mewling and puking to do before he comes of age. An eater of curds and honey — primitive foods — not some ambrosia from a loftier world; a man as much as the Son of Man. He is the one who will descend below all things to save us from all things, what Nephi understood to be the “condescension of God” (1 Nephi 11: 16). And it is the simple blood and straw reality of the first Christmas that first causes the power of this world to desert (Isaiah 7:16).
How profound a prayer comes from the Psalms! “Restore us, O God of hosts; show the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved” (Psalm 80:7). It is this Yeshua son of Mariam “through whom we have received grace” (Rom. 1:5) who will save us, “for he will save his people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21).
This is the promise at the threshold of Christmas. Let us praise this king of heaven.
Mormon Lectionary Project: Fourth Sunday of Advent
The Collect: Heavenly Father, purify us through the Spirit, that your Son Jesus Christ, at his coming, may find in us a mansion prepared for himself; and if not a mansion, then a manger, for there is room for him with us, for he is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Praise, my soul, the King of heaven;
to his feet thy tribute bring;
ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven,
evermore his praises sing:
Praise the everlasting King.