Scattered & Gathered

Jeremiah 23:5-8
See, the days are coming – it is the Lord who speaks – when I will raise a virtuous Branch for David, who will reign as true king and be wise, practising honesty and integrity in the land. In his days Judah will be saved and Israel dwell in confidence. And this is the name he will be called: The-Lord-our-integrity. So, then, the days are coming – it is the Lord who speaks – when people will no longer say, “As the Lord lives who brought the sons of Israel out of the land of Egypt!” but, “As the Lord lives who led back and brought home the descendants of the House of Israel out of the land of the North and from all the countries to which he had dispersed them, to live on their own soil.”

Psalm 71 In his days justice shall flourish, and peace until the moon fails.

Matthew 1:18-24
This is how Jesus Christ came to be born. His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph; but before they came to live together she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph; being a man of honour and wanting to spare her publicity, decided to divorce her informally. He had made up his mind to do this when the 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 she has conceived what is in her by the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son and you must name him Jesus, because he is the one who is to save his people from their sins.’ Now all this took place to fulfil the words spoken by the Lord through the prophet: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son and they will call him Emmanuel, a name which means ‘God-is-with-us.’ When Joseph woke up he did what the angel of the Lord had told him to do: he took his wife to his home.

The ‘one who is to come according to the first reading from Isaiah will be called: The-Lord-our-integrity and according to Matthew he is to be called Emmanuel, a name which means ‘God-is-with-us.’ This naming is important, for the promised One of God carries a name which implies what we traditionally call ‘holiness’. Our English word has its origins in the Germanic heilig, to be whole. The promise of God is the embodiment integrity. To see the Christ is to see God, to know God. There is no fragmentation or separation between the Holy One and the Holy Promise.

There is a wonderful image presented by Isaiah of the “virtuous Branch for David”, the new King, who brings back the scattered remnant of Israel. In its own salvation history Israel came to be scattered as a direct result of its lack of integrity. At pivotal moments along its journey with God, the people of the promise turned away their faces and ceased to walk as his people. Like the sheep who wanders far from the care of the Shepherd they find themselves again and again lost in the wilderness. But again and again, the God of promise delivers to them what they need to return and find their way home again. Their home being the embrace of the One who says, “they shall be my people, and I will be their God”.

In this time we look for Emmanuel. We acknowledge our moments of separation from the God-who-is-with-us and we look to him to bring us back once again to the promise. To re-mind us, re-member us, so that we return to integrity and holiness.

Once we recall the promise, we remember the joy and hope.

We were scattered and then we will be gathered. Jesus is the great gatherer. The Lord our integrity.