Advent and the End of Exile

Matthew begins his narrative with quite the gripping tale. If it takes well-meaning, would-be readers of the Old Testament several weeks before they get mired in seemingly jumbled laws and endless genealogies, it takes their New Testament counterparts all of ten seconds.

Jesus is the son of David, the son of Abraham–and we get 20+ generations of genealogy to prove it.

But entailed in this genealogy is a story: a story of God’s promises. God has promised a king from the line of David, and God has promised a full restoration of the people–an end to the age of exile.

There was an age of Abraham; there was an age of David; and there was an age of exile (Matthew 1:17). But now the age of the messiah is dawning.

What God had promised to Israel is coming to fruition in Christ. What exile was supposed to do, but didn’t, will now be realized.

“You will call him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins” (Matt 1:21, CEB).

Of course, this is what the prophet had long ago declared, but which had not yet been realized:

Comfort, comfort my people!
says your God.
Speak compassionately to Jerusalem,
and proclaim to her that her
compulsory service has ended,
that her penalty has been paid,
that she has received
from the LORD ’s hand
double for all her sins! (Isa 40:1-2, CEB)

The exile was insufficient to pay for the people’s sins. So not only did the exile endure, so did the sins which were its cause.

Advent is the beginning of the end, the beginning of the age of the Messiah, the beginning of the restoration from exile.

Israel’s story is coming to its culmination.

Or, if you prefer the words of hymnody:

O come, o come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel that mourns in lonely exile here–
until the son of God appear.

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