We usually associate infants with calm settings and cooing adults. So there is something familiar about the way Matthew's second chapter begins. Magi—literate, political officials from the governments of Parthia, Armenia, or regions east of Judea (where Herod the Great ruled by permission of Augustus Caesar)—visited Bethlehem with gifts fit for a king. That resembles the way we shower gifts on expectant mothers and infants.
We gather tonight to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ and reaffirm our conviction about what his birth means for the world. And in doing so, we follow the long line of people who understand that the birth of Jesus is more than a historical event. We affirm that the birth of Jesus has something profound to say to humanity about how God acts in the world.
We're familiar with the expression "can't see the forest for the trees." The lessons for the Fourth Sunday of Advent from the Hebrew Testament and Gospel of Matthew provide a working example of that expression. The Gospel lesson—about how an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream and announced that his fiancé was pregnant because of the Holy Spirit—draws from Isaiah 7. We're so familiar with the Gospel lesson that we overlook the passage from Isaiah to which the angel referred.
Isaiah's prophecy speaks of an idyllic time in the future that seems like paradise. The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze, their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder's den. They will not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain; for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea (Is. 11:6-9).
We appreciate your support whether the amount is great or small. It will all be used to further the kingdom of God.