I am currently preaching an Advent series on the biblical name "Emmanuel," Hebrew for "God with us." Anyone who's ever received Christmas cards is familiar with the source of that name, Isaiah 7:14. ("The the virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Emmanuel"). But how many people know the story behind that prophecy? Who was Isaiah speaking to, and what was he trying to accomplish?
A 2003 survey revealed that Americans are more than 3 times more likely to believe in the Virgin Birth of Jesus than in the theory of evolution. As gratifying as that statistic might be to evangelical Christians, let's be honest: Believing intellectually that Jesus was born of a virgin is not true saving faith. Neither is the sort of presumptuous, "name-it-and-claim-it" faith we see promoted so often in the Christian world today. True faith is the ability to believe God's promises and obey His will even when it seems dangerous or foolish to do so. True faith is following Jesus into the valley of the shadow of death, when it would be easier to stay behind in the green pastures. This Sunday, we'll see the sort of faith God demands of us in the story of a little-known Judean king named Ahaz.