Immanuel

 

 

 

SCRIPTURE

18 This is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit. 19 Joseph, her fiancé, was a good man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement quietly.

20 As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. 21 And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

22 All of this occurred to fulfill the Lord’s message through his prophet:

23 “Look! The virgin will conceive a child!
    She will give birth to a son,
and they will call him Immanuel,
    which means ‘God is with us.’”

INTRODUCTION

I love Christmas. I have always loved Christmas but I love it for a different reason than I did when I was a small child. I am not going to deny getting excited about Santa and a toy. Things are totally different now than they were back in 1950. Kids get new toys every week these days; some every time their parents go to town but it was not that way in the middle of last century. There were no rich kids in our neighborhood and the average child got at least one toy at Christmas and most kids in those days did not have birthday parties. My mother had 8 children and she gave two parties per life time: at 6 and 16 and she always made the 16th a surprise.

My love for Christmas today has nothing to do with a toy, not even a new computer or notepad. I get excited about Christmas because it is the celebration of the INCARNATION. My wife and I were in Forest, Mississippi on November 1 for a Celebration of life service and as we pulled out on I-20 to drive home, I started searching for a good talk radio program and found a station our of Jackson [105.1 The River] that was playing Christmas Music. I listen to the station almost everyday [on line]. I am a Christmas nut! I love Josh Grobans “O Holy Night” and Celine Dion’s “Ave Maria”. I have had a lot of people chide me for my love for Christmas by saying “Easter is more important than Christmas.” I always respond in the same way, “there would be no Easter without a Christmas.” What excites me about Christmas is that God, the Creator, came to this speck of dust we call earth and took on the garb of our flesh. We call it the condescension: Jesus came down to our level, our way of life and giving up the glory of heaven to walk the dusty roads of Palestine. The fact that He came translated clearly: HE CAME BECAUSE HE CARED! His coming speaks volumes.

Two centuries ago, cultures all over the world banished lepers. I have been told that at one time, one of the Hawaiian Island was used for the exile of lepers. There was no one on the island that did not have leprosy. There was no government on the island, no law enforcement. The hopelessness and despair drove the lepers to act in reckless and destructive ways; it became a hell on earth. These people felt God-forsaken and rejected until one day, a Catholic Priest named Father Damien moved to the Island. He did not come as a leper, he came as a servant to the lepers. He had a habit of addressing those who would come to church as “My brethren” but after a few years on the Island, he stood one Sunday morning and said, “My fellow lepers.” Father Damien had taken on their sickness. That’s what Jesus did for us: He came to our leper infested planet and took on our leprosy. When we had no hope, He came to given us a bright and glorious hope.

Matthew points out in his gospel that Jesus fulfilled every O.T. Messianic prophecy. Jesus says in Luke 24:44, “Everything written about Me in the law of Moses, the prophets and the Psalms had to be fulfilled.” He explained to the disciples on the road to Emmaus how that all the prophecies in the Old Testament were fulfilled in Him. Several scholars point out that no other human in history, past, present or future can possibly fulfill these prophecies. I believe this was the approach that Paul and Apollos took when arguing with the Jews. There is even more evidence today: all the Jewish records were destroyed by the Romans in 70 A.D. Today, no Jew knows his tribal identity. There is no way the prophecies could be fulfilled today.

Matthew goes back to Isaiah 7:14, “Look! The virgin will conceive a child, She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us.’”

Joseph McCabe said, “Who could love a God remote, when suffering is our lot? Our God is closer than our problems, for they are out there, to be faced; He is here, beside us, Emmanuel.” He is even closer: He is in us! John Wesley’s last words before departing this life were: “The best of all is: God is with us.”

As a matter of fact, Wesley wrote a Christmas Carol that expresses this thought as well as any:

Christ by highest heaven adored, Christ the everlasting Lord!

Late in time behold HIM come, offspring of a Virgin’s womb.

Veiled in flesh, the Godhead see, hail incarnate Deity,

Pleased as man with men to dwell, Jesus, our Immanuel.

My father in the ministry was Calvin C. Inman and he became acquainted [during his seminary days I presume] with an artist/preacher. This preacher would introduce his sermons with what he called a Chalk Talk. He would talk as he sketched and within minutes, he would have a graphic picture. He could draw a picture of a house in the shadow of the night. The house would look cold, dark and empty but then with a stroke of genius, he would put a light in the widow [A Thomas Kincade type picture]. That one light changed the entire picture. Jesus is the light  that changed this world forever.

Immanuel, God with us, wow! He did not send an angel, for God so loved the world that He sent His one and only Son. He took our flesh from the portals of Mary’s womb, the Word became flesh and pitched His tent among us. He left a heaven filled with glory to live in a world cursed by sin. He took our flesh, He took our suffering and eventually He took our sin and shame. He suffered with us and for us that He might be more than a faithful high priest but also a sympathetic high priest. Jesus was an infant nursing on his mother’s breast; he was a child playing in the streets of Nazareth; He was a teenager; He was a carpenter’s son and then a carpenter. Jesus worked, sweated, got hungry and got tired: He was acquainted with hunger, with thirst, with rejection, with ridicule. He knew what it was like to feel lonely; to feel guilty and to feel God-forsaken.

If you could interview the disciples: I think all would say, “Jesus was exciting, He was real, He was fearless, He was God and it was wonderful to be in His presence.” When we needed courage: Jesus was there to say, “Take courage, I AM“, when we were afraid Jesus was there to speak peace to our fear. When we had doubts, Jesus was there to strengthen our faith. God with us…We are talking about His presence with us. So used to His presence, the disciple grieved deeply when Jesus talked about going away but He promised His presence in another dimension, He said in John 16…I know that hearing news like this is overwhelming and sad. But the truth is that My departure will be a gift that will serve you well, because if I don’t leave, the great Helper will not come to your aid. When I leave, I will send Him to you. When He arrives, He will uncover the sins of the world, expose unbelief as sin, and allow all to see their sins in the light of righteousness for the first time.” With the Holy Spirit indwelling every believer, we have God’s presence 24/7 no matter where we are.

RULE # 1–DO NOT CONFUSE FACTS WITH FEELINGS: FEELING  HIS PRESENCE WITH THE MANIFESTATION OF HIS PRESENCE. He can be present without manifesting His presence.

Let me remind you of a precious truth: our feeling His presence, our sensing His presence or seeing a manifestation of His presence has nothing to do with the fact of His presence. You do not have to be aware of His presence for Him to be present. There is a wonderful story in Luke 24 about two disciple who are very discouraged and they are leaving Jerusalem shortly after the crucifixion and walking 7 miles to a town call Emmaus. Jesus appears to the on the road and actually walks with them and converses with them but they are not aware that it is Jesus. How did He keep them from recognizing Him? I don’t know, don’t have a clue but they did not recognize him until they sat down for supper and He returned thanks. Then their eyes were opened and then Jesus vanished into thin air. He was present with them for hours while walking on the road and they did not know it.

RULE # 2–HE DEMANDS THAT YOU LIVE BY FAITH. Faith is HIS idea, it is His way of doing things. It is impossible to please HIM without faith. In laymen’s terms, this means He will not give us a steady diet of miracles or manifestations. His design is for you and I to lear to trust HIM and take HIM at HIS word. David said in Psalm 23, Yea though I walk thought the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil because Thou art with me. In Matthew 28:20, Jesus said to His disciples, “Look, I am with you every single day, to the very end of the age.” Our faith is based on the integrity of Jesus. Can we trust HIM? Has He ever lied to us? There are times in our lives when we have nothing to go on other than His word and we must learn to take Him at His word.

The second temptation {Mathew 4} is the lure of the spectacular, the lure of the sensational. Jesus is capable of the spectacular and the sensational but He refused to build His kingdom on those things. Do you have to experience the sensational to feel the presence of God? Do you have to see special effects to feel the presence of Christ. Most of what the modern church does is a subtle form of entertainment; it is smoke and mirrors. Dr. Vance Havner told of the church that went Hollywood and had one sensational program after another to attack people. The church was growing with each new sensation but it was a mile wide and an inch deep. One Sunday, they brought in a talking horse, put him up on stage and his trainer ask: How many commandment are there? The horse to his right front hoof and tapped the floor soundly ten times. Then he ask him, “How many disciples?” The horse tapped 12 times. Then some smart aleck from the congregation hollowed, “How many hypocrites are there in this church?” Dr. Havner said the horse went into a dance. JESUS PROMISED HIS PRESENCE, He did not promise a feeling or a sensation. We either take Him at His word or we don’t.

RULE #3–CHRIST IS WITH US BECAUSE HE CHOOSE TO BE WITH US. The best illustration are in the bible and the best of the best is found in Genesis 45 when Joseph reveals himself to His brothers. By the way, Joseph was in their presence and they did not know it. He was among them and they were not aware of his presence. But what I want you to notice is what he says to them…“I am Joseph!” he said to his brothers. “Is my father still alive?” But his brothers were speechless! They were stunned to realize that Joseph was standing there in front of them. “Please, come closer,” he said to them. So they came closer. Later Joseph sends them back to Canaan for Jacob, then all the Israelites come to live with Joseph in Egypt and it was all Joseph’s idea. He wanted to be close to his brothers. You must understand that Joseph’s desire was to please his father and he knew his father loved all his children. Joseph made a conscious choose to forgive, love and be in the presence of his sinful brothers. What the brothers did or did not do had nothing to do with Joseph’s decision.

Jesus did not come to hang out with us because we are good or deserving. He came because His father loves us and He shares that same love. He came because He cared and He literally wants to spend time with us. This may be the most wonderful truth of the bible, Jesus wants to hang out with the likes of us. Joseph was a man of impeccable character: his brothers were liars, cheats, con-artist, rapist and murderers. Bro. Tucker referred to them as hooligans and outlaws. Joseph wanting to be near them was an act of GRACE.

I once read a story of a father, who had told his son he would send him to sleep in the attic, with only bread and water for his supper, if he broke disobeyed him mom one more time. The child disobeyed again and was sent to the attic: The father could not eat. He had the boy on his mind and his heart. His wife said: “I know what you are thinking. But you must not bring the boy from the attic. It would encourage his disobedience. He would have no respect for your word. You must not cheapen your relation as his father by failing to keep your promise.” To which her husband replied: “You are right. I will not break my word. To do so would cause my son to lose his respect for my word. But he is so lonely up there.” He kissed his wife good night, entered the attic, ate bread and water with the boy, and when the child went to sleep on the hard boards, his father’s arm was his pillow. {Pat Cook}

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