Acts of Advent 11

Three acts of advent: adoration, activism, and community-building. I’m struck in the advent stories of how focused they are on the people of God … and today’s text makes that abundantly clear. It comes from Matthew 1:20-21.

20 But
after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a
dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary
home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy
Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

What do we see here: Joseph is to marry Mary, in spite of what appearances are, because God’s Spirit is at work in the conception of the child.

The birth of that baby leads to the naming of that child: his name is to be Yeshua (Joshua, Jesus).

Why? Because he will be a Savior of “his people.” That people is undoubtedly Israel.

The mission of the Messiah is to redeem, save, restore Israel. The work of God in Jesus is to create the people of God. God’s work is ecclesial. We must observe that it does not say “he will save just individuals.” It is an ecclesial task.

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  • RJS

    Yo Scot,
    Perhaps he came to save individuals from their sins to prepare a people of God for the hereafter?
    (Said with a snarky tone…)
    More seriously — is the appropriate interpretation of sins here as collective? This is not individual purity and commitment – but collective behavior of the people, and especially the leaders?

  • Scot McKnight

    The focus of the text is on the redemption of Israel from Israel’s sins; in other words, it is a mission to the nation. But, that includes the salvation of individuals. The problem for many of us to see the latter and not the former. It’s both/and.

  • RJS

    Yes, but…
    Given 20 centuries of failure in the church, mightn’t it be reasonable to conclude salvation is individual, and the ecclesial piece is yet to come?
    OK, I don’t really think this way, but do have trouble figuring out how the facts of the last 2000 years are consistent parts of the story.