• Rev. Mark Tews

Did You Hear?

I recently heard the true story of a woman who entered her local library and said, “I’d like to find a book on the ‘real meaning of Christmas.’ Nothing religious though.” That is an awfully odd thing to request, isn’t it? The real meaning of Christmas is all about the baby Jesus being born to a virgin! “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call His name Immanuel [‘God with us’].” (Isaiah 7:14). About 700 years before Jesus was born, God spoke these words and made this declaration through his servant Isaiah. This past Christmas, did you hear God’s Word? How many in this world actually celebrated Christmas as if they didn’t hear God’s Word at all? How many still miss the true meaning beneath all the shimmer and lights? If only the innocence of childlike faith could permeate throughout all our lives.

A church once allowed their Sunday School children to stage an impromptu Christmas pageant. The story was read to the children and they were provided with props. Then the teachers stood back and let the children dramatize what they had heard. A girl grabbed a doll and said, “I’ll be Mary.” A boy said, “I’ll be Joseph.” Everyone else was something else: shepherds, sheep, wise men, angels, etc. However, one girl had no part, so she said, “I’ll be the doctor.” The children took their places and began acting the story out. When the time came, the “doctor” took the doll from Mary’s pillow beneath her shirt and held it up. Joseph asked, “What is it, doc?” The little doctor smiled and said, “It’s a God.” The children had listened, they had heard, and they got the main point: Jesus was born of a virgin, named Immanuel, “God with us.”

The series of events that led up to the prophecy spoken in Isaiah 7:14 is interesting. King Ahaz was a very “religious” man. In fact, he worshipped a multitude of gods, but there was one God he would not worship: the God of Israel. Because Ahaz rejected the Lord, “The LORD had humbled Judah because of Ahaz king of Israel, for he had promoted wickedness in Judah and had been most unfaithful to the LORD.” (2 Chronicles 28:19). King Ahaz reigned in Judah for 16 years and made every effort to destroy the one true faith of the nation of Israel. He locked up the gates of the temple and melted down the temple vessels to take the gold and silver. He offered burnt incense on high places throughout Judah, which God’s Law explicitly condemned. He set up altars on his roof so he could worship the stars, moon, and sun. He sacrificed his son in the fire, following the pagan ways. He sought to speak with the dead to find out his future and he refused to listen to God’s prophets. He never heard or heeded the Word of God.

In the Book of Isaiah, Chapter 7, Ahaz’s bleak future came. Two of his arch-enemies, Rezin the king of Aram and Pekah the king of Israel, were at the gates of Jerusalem. In past wars with them, 120,000 of Ahaz’s soldiers were killed in a single day and 200,000 of his people carried into captivity. Now, his enemies were back for more and Ahaz was very afraid. Instead of turning to God for help, he decided that his best option was to look for an ally that was “big enough” to help him defeat them and appealed to the King of the Assyrians. This was a bad idea because Assyria was a wicked nation.

Before Ahaz sealed his bargain with Assyria, God offered him another option. God sent Isaiah to tell Ahaz that the invasion he feared would not happen and that both Rezin and Pekah would be dead within two years. God also offered Ahaz the assurance that He would do as He promised if Ahaz would only ask for a sign from Him. But Ahaz refused to listen. He didn’t really believe Isaiah’s God could do anything to help him, so he was not interested. So, God had Isaiah deliver the prophecy mentioned earlier. Ahaz ignored God and turned away again, having no belief in the prophecy. He refused to accept the proclamation that a virgin could ever be with child. And it is so with many people today who hear about the virgin’s birth and still live as if they did not hear. Even some “Christian” clergy and laypersons claim that it is acceptable to question whether Mary was actually a virgin. Like Ahaz, these people may be very “religious,” but their refusal to hear God’s word shows a lack of true saving faith.

God’s Word tells us plainly that He stepped down out of heaven to bring us salvation through His Son, Jesus Christ. God was the only one righteous enough to offer a pure sacrifice for our sin, but the problem was that God can’t die. So, God had a plan and incarnated Himself as a human, Jesus Christ, born to the Virgin Mary. Jesus was both the Son of Man through Mary and the Son of God through the Holy Spirit. In that one mortal body, Jesus was both fully human and fully God. Being mortal, He was then able to die for all our sins. He was also God and righteous enough rise from the grave, defeating sin, death, and the devil for us.

Did you HEAR that?! If you heard and believe that this is true, then it is time to say to others: “LISTEN, because I’ve got something to tell you!” Many in this world don’t like to hear us talking about Jesus and they don’t like to listen to His story. The world tries to crowd us out, and tries to hijack Christmas, ignoring the weight of the miracle that Jesus was born of a virgin. But there is no need to be afraid and no need to lose heart. You can tell them anyway.

“Be careful, keep calm and don’t be afraid. Do not lose heart because of these two smoldering stubs of firewood – because of the fierce anger of Rezin and Aram and of the son of Remaliah.” (Isaiah 7:4). The “smoldering stubs” of this world are out there, but for we who have heard and believe the Word of the Lord, keep calm. There is no need to fear, nor to lose heart. Boldly go into all the world, proclaiming to everyone all you have heard in God’s Almighty Word.