The readings leading up to Christmas are full of prophecies and their fulfillments, which are meant to explicitly demonstrate that Jesus was the foretold Messiah.
Wednesday's first reading prophesies that the Messiah will come from the house of David. Joseph, the adoptive father of Jesus, descends from the line of David. Ok, check. We also read a prophecy that says a virgin will bear a son, and then we hear about that happening in the Gospel. Check, again.
But then things get more complicated.
The prophecy indicates that the Messiah will save Judah and create peace. He will bring God's chosen people out of banishment and welcome them back to their land. In the Gospel, the angel tells Joseph that his son shall be named Jesus, meaning “to deliver” in Hebrew. So that seems to fulfill what was foretold. But the angel does not say that Jesus will deliver them from political oppression. Rather he says that he will be called Jesus because he will save his people from their sins. Not exactly what was foretold.
Historically burdened with political turmoil, enslavement, and oppression, the Jews clung to the idea that the Savior would establish a united kingdom, free from foreign domination. But Jesus comes to establish a spiritual leadership and provide spiritual salvation. The land he wants to take his people back to is the state of perfection, which existed in the Garden of Eden. Now his followers will have the opportunity to go back to the land of complete happiness after death.
So why the ambiguity? Why wouldn’t God just tell the Hebrews exactly what the Messiah would do?
I think one explanation is that they would likely not have understood. We see in the New Testament, that Jesus' followers are often confused. As one example, Jesus explains to his apostles very clearly, “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and [the Son of Man] will be handed over to the Gentiles...and after they have scourged Him, they will kill Him; and the third day He will rise again.”
Pretty straight forward. But the scriptures tell us, “the disciples understood none of these things”. And sure enough, when Jesus is laid in the tomb, they hide out in the upper room, in complete despair.
We humans have a very limited capacity to understand the things of God. The Jews would likely not have comprehended the true mission of the Messiah, so God explained it to them in terms they could relate to, describing Heaven as a peaceful kingdom, free from oppression and enslavement. But all along, He was planning to give them so much more than earthly peace.
How often do we ponder our future, asking God for some insight into what is to come. We ask Him, “How long will I battle with this? How are things going to turn out?” and we don't often get a very clear explanation. But when we are feeling frustrated about our circumstances and our lack of clarity, we need to remember to think bigger. God does not promise us a perfectly peaceful life on Earth, and our paths will not always unfold in the way we thought they would. But that is because God's will is infinitely bigger than our imagination. His will is that we all be united with him in everlasting life, and these winding paths, full of confusion and hardship, have been ordained to get us there.