In our first reading today (4th Sunday of Advent Year A), the Lord offers a sign to King Ahaz. He tells Ahaz, “let it be deep as the netherworld, or high as the sky!” Ahaz can ask for any sign, no matter how great and the Lord will grant it.
What would you ask for as a sign? What do you want a sign for? Do you want a sign that tells us God is with you? Do you want a sign that tells you what God wants you to do? I know God is with me. So, I would ask for a sign to know what God wants me to do.
Is it okay to ask for a sign? I think of the story of Thomas after the Resurrection. Jesus had appeared risen to the other Apostles but not to Thomas. Thomas doubts because he has not seen Jesus for himself. As soon as he does see Jesus risen, he believes. ‘”Jesus said to him, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed”’ (John 20:29). Is it okay to ask for a sign?
In chapter six of the Book of Judges, we hear the story of God calling Gideon to serve as a “judge.” Gideon feel unworthy to serve and asked God to confirm his calling through the sign of the fleece and the morning dew. God is not offended. He grants Gideon’s request and provides the sign. We may not always get the sign we want but we can ask when our request is based on faith in God.
So why would Ahaz refuse to ask for a sign when God offers one? One might suppose that Ahaz trusts in the Lord. Thus, he does not need a sign. That is not the case. Ahaz has his own plan. The Israelites are about to be attacked by Assyria. Ahaz has his own plan. He wants his own plan to work so he can take the credit. Rather than humbly trusting in the Lord, he is being prideful.
While Ahaz refuses the sign, the Lord still offers one. “Therefore, the Lord himself will give you this sign: the virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall name him Emmanuel.”
We continue our Advent season. Soon, we will celebrate the first coming of Jesus at Christmas. The birth of Jesus fulfills the prophecy given through Isaiah at the time of Ahaz, “the virgin shall conceive, and a bear a son.” Many prophecies are fulfilled in Jesus’ conception, birth, life, and Crucifixion. In Jesus, God enters our world as one of us and good things happen.
The circumstances of Mary’s conception came with challenges. She was already betrothed to Joseph but they were not yet living together. Yet, she was found with child. Joseph knows the child is not his for Mary and he had not had intercourse. That would indicate that Mary must have committed adultery.
Joseph could have had her stoned for this. He does not want to. He rejects the death penalty for Mary and decided to divorce her quietly. “He was a righteous man.” He wanted to do what was right. He wanted to do what God wanted.
God knew Joseph was a righteous man and would do the Lord’s will. God sent an angel to Joseph in a dream. The angel tells him that Mary has conceived “through the Holy Spirit.” The angel told Joseph to take Mary into his home and care for him.
Joseph was a righteous man. Thus, “When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home.” Together with Mary, he raised Jesus as his own son. Jesus, Mary, and Joseph became the Holy Family. Jesus would grow up and do great things for us.
It was God’s plan all along. Mary said yes to being the mother of Jesus. Joseph “did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him.” From their yesses to God, good things happened for us. Jesus saves us from our sins.