Two weeks ago we were rocked by a 7.0-magnitude earthquake. It was the strongest tremor I had ever experienced, and that includes living for three years in earthquake-prone Japan. Even so, I think I felt it less intensely than most people, since I was in my vehicle at the time, stopped a stop light.
Thanks be to God, no one in the church family was hurt (nor were there any major injuries or deaths in the whole area – a testimony first to God’s mercy, but secondarily to Alaska’s strict building codes). One church family was shaken, both literally and figuratively, more than most. They are doing better now. For the rest, the earthquake did mainly minor damage – broken mirrors and dishes, and such.
For all of us, we were reminded of God’s sovereignty and power, of his coming judgment, and of his grace to us in Christ. For no matter how accurately geologists may explain an earthquake in terms of plate tectonics, the Scripture ascribes all such events to the sovereign hand of God (Psalm 104:32). For believers in Christ, we are led by these awesome and frightening displays of God’s power back to his promises for us – that “though the earth gives way,” “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1, 2).
This past Sunday I began a three-week Advent series on the prophecies of the coming Christ from Isaiah, beginning with the promise of the birth of Immanuel in 7:14. Strange that the Lord should proclaim this wonderful promise to Ahaz, the unbelieving and ungodly king of Judah. Though Ahaz failed to trust in the Lord in the face of a military and political crisis, the promise of Immanuel – “God with us” – gave hope to generations of Israelites of a coming Savior who would somehow embody the presence of God among his people.
Some 735 years after Isaiah first declared God’s promise of Immanuel, a young Galilean girl named Mary conceived in her womb the baby Jesus. She was the virgin who would “conceive and bear and son,” and Jesus was the child who was Immanuel, God with us. And the salvation this child was born to accomplish was far greater than the deliverance of Israel from her earthly enemies. As the angel of the Lord spoke to Joseph in a dream, the baby miraculously conceived in Mary’s womb would “save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21).
In Christ, God is truly with us, with us to save and with us to comfort. Our only hope in life and death is Immanuel. And so we worship and give thanks to God for the incarnation of birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. “Praise the LORD, all nations! Extol him, all peoples!” (Psalm 117:1).
Soli Deo Gloria!