Today’s Reading: Isaiah 7:10-14
Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. (Isaiah 7:14)
In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. In his book on Christian doctrine, St. Augustine writes that there are two kinds of signs: natural and conventional. Natural signs are those that have a relation of cause and effect, such as smoke signifying fire or a paw print in the mud pointing to a particular kind of animal. On the other hand, conventional signs do not have any intrinsic relation to the things they signify. They point to ideas or feelings or theology. In fact, this page is filled with conventional signs. Words mean things because the shapes of the letters of the English alphabet signify certain things when they’re arranged in a certain order.
But signs are not always clear. Sometimes signs are ambiguous: They could mean one thing; they could mean another thing. They could mean several things at once or nothing at all. Signs need to be interpreted properly. If you’ve ever been misinterpreted, you know how frustrating it is when you mean one thing and someone thinks you mean another.
God also gives signs. He gives natural signs, like a beautiful sunrise to signify His majesty and glory. He also gives conventional signs, like the Holy Scriptures. But His signs are often misinterpreted. So sometimes He gives a sign that is neither conventional nor natural. “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14).
The Lord Himself provides the sign and the Lord Himself provides the interpretation. “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: ‘Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel’ (which means, God with us)” (Matthew 1:22–23). The meaning of this sign isn’t just an idea or a feeling or even theology. It’s God Himself. The unconventional and unnatural sign of the virgin conception and birth signifies that God Himself is now with us. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.
We praise You, Jesus, at Your birth; Clothed in flesh You came to earth. The virgin bears a sinless boy And all the angels sing for joy. Alleluia! (“We Praise You, Jesus, at Your Birth” LSB 382, st.1)
–Rev. Jacob Ehrhard is pastor of St. John’s Lutheran Church and School in Chicago, IL
Audio Reflections Speaker: Pastor Duane Bamsch