Our Gospel reading refers to our Old Testament reading this week but there was a translation problem that has led to many debates about that key word.
Isaiah 7:10-16 - During the reign of King Ahaz in the southern kingdom of Judah, the nations of Israel (the northern kingdom, referred to as Ephraim) and Syria (referred to as Aram) are threatening an invasion and King Ahaz is worried. God sends Isaiah and his son to the king to reassure him that within 3 years these threats will go away. All of this happens in verses 1-9. In our reading, God tell Ahaz to ask for a sign from Isaiah but Ahaz refuses saying he won't put God to the test. Isaiah gave a sign anyway: a young woman will give birth to a son whose name will be Immanuel and before he is 3 the threats from Israel and Syria will be dealt with by their destruction. In the verse not read, verse 17, the nation that will deal with Israel and Syria is an even worse foe: Assyria. Note: when the Hebrew scriptures were translated into Greek about 100 years before Jesus, the Greek translators had a problem. The Hebrew word translated as "young woman" in most modern English translations can sometimes also mean a "young virgin". The translators chose the Greek word meaning "virgin". This translation is called the Septuagint and is the scripture that all the New Testament writers knew.
Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19 - The Psalmist asks God to restore the nation to it former glory and also asks God how long he will be angry with them. The skipped verses recount what God has formerly done for Israel. The last verses promises that the people will never again turn away from God if God were to restore them.
Romans 1:1-7 - These verses are the greeting or salutation to the church in Rome. Paul says he has been chosen for the gospel of God, which was promised by the prophets about Jesus Christ who has given us grace and apostleship to help believers in their faith. (I tried to use a short run-on sentence to imitate Paul's long run-on sentence.)
Matthew 1:18-25 - Here we are at the fourth Sunday in Advent and we finally get a "Christmassy" verse. Following a long genealogy that works from Abraham to David to Josiah (king of Israel at the time Babylon destroyed Jerusalem and carried many people into Exile) to Joseph the husband of Mary the mother of Jesus, Matthew begins to tell the story of Jesus' birth from the perspective of Joseph. Joseph & Mary are engaged but not living together. Mary gets pregnant and Joseph wants to sent her away. An angel appears in Joseph's dream and tells him the child Mary is carrying is of the Holy Spirit and Joseph needs to do the right thing: stick with her and name the boy Jesus. When Joseph awoke he took Mary as his wife but remained celebrate until after Jesus' birth. Matthew includes a quote from Isaiah 7:14 in the Septuagint about the son born to a virgin and who is to be called Immanuel. Notice that in Matthew's version there is no story of Elizabeth, Zechariah, and their son John. There is no mention of mangers or shepherds and there is no mention of Nazareth or Bethlehem or of a journey between. Bethlehem is mentioned at the beginning of the story of the magi (2:1) which may have happened when Jesus was 2 years old (2:16) and Nazareth doesn't come up until they return from Egypt (2:23). The Matthew story of the birth of Jesus is about a man, Joseph, doing the right thing in the midst of a corrupt political scene in Judea.
Have a great week reading the Good News / Gospel of Jesus Christ.