Tag Archives: Virgin Birth

Emmanuel, God with us

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Isaiah 7.10–16
Matthew 1.18–25

Word of Love,
  enter our hearts
  as you entered the virgin’s womb.
  Come, Lord Jesus!

Madeleine L’Engle, Miracle on 10th St


I’ve been trying to preach from Isaiah during Advent, and I’m going to at least start in Isaiah today. We’ve come to a well-known verse: it’s Isaiah 7.14.

Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel.

What’s does that mean? What was Isaiah talking about? Let’s see, shall we? Isaiah was addressing Ahaz, the king of Judah. Ahaz was facing a difficult situation.  

Back then, about 800 BC, the country we know as Israel was divided in two. The northern part was called Israel; the southern part was Judah. Judah was under military threat from Israel and also from Syria, which is where Syria is today. Israel and Syria wanted a three-nation alliance to fight off an invasion from an invasion from Assyria, which is where Iraq is now. 

The city of Jerusalem was in Judah, and that’s where Isaiah and Ahaz were. Isaiah’s prophetic word was for King Ahaz to trust God, rather than form any kind of military alliance. 

That’s enough history. Ahaz was in a pickle, Isaiah was counselling him to trust in God. And Isaiah says, 

Ask a sign of the Lord your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven.

It can be anything in all creation! Ask away, Ahaz! 

But Ahaz replies, 

I will not ask, and I will not put the Lord to the test. 

What an interesting answer! It’s pious (‘I will not put the Lord to the test’). It also neatly avoids having anything to do with God.

Ahaz must have been to diplomacy school. 

Isaiah isn’t satisfied though. So, he says,

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.  

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A Second Naivete

Luke 1.68–79
Luke 3.1–6


…scholars had to learn to read the Bible again through lenses ground by faith and theology, including the theological reading of Scripture developed in the first Christian centuries and in the Middle Ages. It was necessary, in other words, to practise the ecumenism of time when reading and trying to understand the Bible.

And what is true for biblical scholars is surely true for other believers. We, too, must learn to approach the Bible with what the French philosopher Paul Ricoeur once called a ‘second naivete’—not the naivete of the child, but the openness to wonder and mystery that comes from having passed through the purifying fires of modern knowledge without having one’s faith in either revelation or reason reduced to ashes and dust. — George Weigel, ‘Second Naivete: Reading the Christmas story with Benedict XVI’.


A granddad is reading stories to his young granddaughter, stories he loved as a boy. They may be the Narnia tales, or Winnie the Pooh, or Snugglepot and Cuddlepie. 

Granddad loves this as much as Granddaughter. Why not, they’re sharing precious time together and creating memories. But Granddad hasn’t picked these stories up for years. As he grew up, he’d learned that bears don’t talk and that for them piglets are food not friends. Secret worlds like Narnia don’t exist. And gumnuts don’t talk. 

He’d got on with life instead, building a career, mowing the lawn, having a family which this dear little child is part of.

Now, he’s not just enjoying being with his granddaughter, though that would be enjoyment enough; he is connecting with these children’s stories in a new way, a way that awakens him to something within, something he can’t quite put his finger on. 

He knows the wardrobe is just a wardrobe. He knows there’s no point going off to find the Hundred-Acre Wood. He knows it’s all imagination, yet—at the same time—it does seem bigger and vaster than him. 

Granddaughter just loves the stories. And snuggling with Granddad.

She is perfectly happy to accept that Winnie the Pooh is real—and now, when she sees an open wardrobe door she feels something… Is it a thrill or a chill? She doesn’t always know. 

They’re both happy to have read the story, and they go to bed contented, but for different reasons. 

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