“Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means, “God is with us.” -Matthew 1:23
Dear members and friends,
At the heart of the Christian message is hope. This is not a hope made by human wishful thinking, but a hope that is demonstrated by God. The message is very clear in Matthew where an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph and said, “She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins. (Matthew 1:21)” The Messiah was not coming to judge people nor to punish them, but to save them from their sins. “Sin” is a loaded word to modern people in general, perhaps due to how it was abused by the Church during the medieval age. Sin is definitely not a good thing, but it is not something that necessarily incurs severe punishment. Rather, sin is serious, according to the Bible, only because sin would cause a blockage between a sinner and God. Therefore, God sees sinners not as criminals to be punished, but as lost sheep who cannot find the way home by themselves.
In Matthew, the prophecy in Isaiah was repeated after the story of an angel of God visiting Joseph in a dream, “Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means, “God is with us.” This could be understood in two ways: 1. God will be with us with the birth of the child; or 2. The child is the sign that God has been with us all along. I love the second interpretation better, because it is my firm belief that God has been with humans ever since God created humans, no matter how selfish and lost humans chose to be. The heart of the Advent message is that God chose to come not only into the human world, but to take a human body while doing so. This is great news to us all! This means that no one is too far gone to be saved or redeemed and it’s never too late to change one’s heart and to cultivate a life of love and charity.
Blessings, Rev. Junchol Lee