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The following is the second of three reflections that were given at the Hillsboro UMC Christmas Eve service on 12/24/2008.
Isaiah 7 says, “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”  While in its original context, the prophet was speaking of another situation, it is important to note that the people of God saw another layer of meaning to this prophecy.  In its original context, it was a sign to Ahaz, king of Judah, that the Lord will be with them and that their enemies will not overcome them.  Remember, God’s promises do not go unfulfilled.  When these words were spoken, Ahaz was dealing with a threat from both Syria and Israel.  They had conspired together to overthrow Ahaz and put in power a king who would join them in rebellion against the Assyrian empire.  Ahaz is encouraged to trust in the Lord and his enemies will no longer be a problem.  
The child that was conceived and born was to be named Immanuel as a reminder that the Lord was with them through this trial.  Ahaz failed to see that and ended up getting Judah into deeper trouble.  Ahaz turned to Assyria, and in doing so, he invited one of history’s most ruthless armies to his door step.  And, as often happens when we fail to trust in the Lord, a bigger problem loomed on the horizon.  Sure, the Assyrians took care of Syria in 732 and Israel in 722, but by 701, the Assyrians had laid siege to Jerusalem.
We can read the story of Assyria’s siege of Jerusalem in 2 Kings, but here is the summary of what happens.  The Assyrian army is led by Sennacherib who appears at the gates of the city and tells the people not to trust in Hezekiah, Ahaz’s son who is king in Judah, and not to trust in the Lord.  Hezekiah does what his father Ahaz failed to do.  He trusts in the Lord.  And overnight, 185,000 Assyrians were struck down by an angel of the Lord.  The Assyrian army was devastated, and they left Jerusalem for home.  Failure to trust in the Lord on the part of Ahaz led to disaster.  Trusting in the Lord on the part of Hezekiah led to deliverance.
We can see this drama played out again and again in our own lives.  Failure to trust in the Lord can lead to disaster, while trusting in Him will lead to deliverance.  The promise that began so long ago about one who will deliver the people of God was temporarily fulfilled in Hezekiah’s time and it would be eternally fulfilled by Jesus.  Jesus would stand ultimately as Immanuel – God with us.  He would be the one who delivered, not only Israel, but all humanity from the world’s most dangerous and ruthless foe – one who is always waiting on our door step.
And so it was, the time for God to fulfill His promises had come, but the fulfillment was far more than was ever expected.  We’ve talked before about how the Messiah was expected to be a military and political ruler, who was supposed to kick out the oppressive Roman government and reestablish Israel’s prominence among the nations.  These expectations are a far cry from the Prince of Peace in Isaiah 9.  Though the Messiah was expected, he was not understood.  But then again, we often don’t understand what God has in store for us, even when we think we understand His promises.  God has a way of taking everything we think we know, throwing it aside and absolutely blowing our mind by showing us what He really has in store.  God’s grace is unbelievable.  Jesus was a promise that was fulfilled, but done in a way that completely overshadows any and every thing that we could have ever possibly imagined.
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