Anticipating Immanuel in Troubling Times

by Alexei Laushkin

The Prophet Isaiah introduces Immanuel in a very unusual way. Soon after his call and commission he is discoursing with Ahaz King of Judah, as the captivity of God’s people becomes an ever increasing reality. Ahaz is beset by every side by powerful enemies.

Isaiah is talking about the alliance that is forming against Ahaz and the great anxiety around the potential destruction of Judah, and than we go right into Immanuel. Here’s Isaiah 7:13-14:

Then Isaiah said, ‘Hear now, you house of David! Is it not enough to try the patience of men? Will you try the patience of God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a soon and will call him Immanuel.

In the midst of the concerns for the future of God’s people Isaiah speaks of a future time. He introduces the more ultimate event in the midst of potential ruin and decay.

Advent Reorients Us

This feeling of a broader answer to contemporary troubles is the real spirit of Advent. It’s the anticipation in the midst of decay and waiting. It’s the hope in the midst of troubles.

Perhaps for the first time in many years, Christians in America can enter into this season of real waiting, in light of our temporary troubles.

In context the answer for Ahaz is well past his reign. The answer does not really speak into his calamity and the turbulent times he is about to face, and yet the answer of Immanuel is the ultimate solution, for it is the true reconciliation of God and man in the Christ child Jesus.

The birth of Jesus is the beginning, the great gift of God coming in the flesh to reconcile man to himself.

Without this reconciliation the concerns of Ahaz will never be met. Even if a corrupt regime lasts longer for the sake of the people, and another regime comes in its place for a possible restoration, the problem still remains, the wandering hearts of the people and the rulers.

Jesus is the anchor, the rock. All who flock to his banner, are counted in the kingdom. Whether they face trials and temptations, turbulent times or times of peace, their anchor is really not just in another life, but in the midst of a life lived according to the trust and goodness of God’s provision in turbulent times.

This is also the meaning of Advent, to trust God’s provision for your family for you personally in the midst of troubles and anxieties.

The United States is about to enter some of the more turbulent years of our nation’s history. Who knows what the next four years will bring or can bring and yet Advent.

We anticipate a reorientation for our hearts and our hopes and our future. We anticipate the Christ child, for at his feet every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord.

The Christ child, we are invited to wait for the signs, to anticipate his coming, and like the wise men of old to make our own journeys, long as they may be to visit him in our hearts, to lower our pride, and orient elsewhere in the midst of turbulent times.

Perhaps this is the greatest Advent gift of all the journey towards the manger. And this humble and focused journey is as applicable in the times of Ahaz as today.

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