Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Immanuel: God With Us

Preached at Northwest Christian Church
David P. Kautt
Sunday Morning, December 5, 2010

Matthew 1:18-25, “Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly. But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.” So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.” Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife, and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son. And he called His name JESUS.”
At Christmas time, as I prepare the messages to bring to you each Lord’s Day, a lot of things go through my mind. What is it that God wants me to say to you at this time? What are the significant truths for our lives to be drawn out of the Scripture texts that tell us of Jesus’ birth? What unique and creative ways are there at my disposal to use in communicating the Christmas message? And even, what is there, about the birth of Jesus, that I can say, that hasn’t already been said or that you haven’t already heard? These and others questions are what I ask myself at this season of the year, as I make plans to preach on Sundays.

Now that I’ve sort of let you in on my thinking process, if you will, to tell you about what I’ve been considering as I got ready for this message. As I looked again at this passage here in Matthew chapter 1, and at the passages that record the events pertaining to Jesus’ birth found in Luke’s gospel and in John, I was once again intrigued and captured by the richness of meaning and significance wrapped up in that simple, but most wonderful of names – the name, ‘JESUS’ - and the numerous other descriptive names and titles given to Him as our Savior.

For example, think again with me: just what does His name, the name Jesus, mean? As the angel of the Lord, who appeared to Joseph in a dream, makes plain to him; this precious child born to Joseph’s espoused wife, Mary, was to be named ‘Jesus’ – why? Because He would ‘save His people from their sins.’

Jesus – Savior… What a tremendously significant name that is! And then, how about these that were given to Him? King of the Jews (the Magi, Matthew 2:2), the Shepherd of God’s people Israel (Micah 5:2, Matthew 2:6), Christ the Lord (angel of the Lord to shepherds, Luke 2:11), God’s salvation (Simeon to Mary & Joseph, Luke 2:30), the Light of Revelation to the Gentiles, the Glory of God’s people Israel (Luke 2:32) and even, the Redemption of Jerusalem (Anna, Luke 2:38).

Jesus, Who is He? Jesus – what does that precious name mean? The One God sent to save His people from their sins… what a wondrous name that is! And how blessed we are to be able to speak it, how privileged we are, because He is our Savior, to wear it! The name, Jesus.

As I said a moment ago, my thoughts have focused on that marvelous name – Jesus – and the many other names and descriptive titles, that tell us so much about our Savior, and give us so many reasons to praise God for sending Him. Well, in light of that, I want you to take a few moments with me this morning, to contemplate the depth of meaning and importance of yet another name ascribed to the Son of God. And that’s the name we find given to Him here in verse 23, the name Immanuel. Immanuel.

As the gospel writer, Matthew, makes plain to us, in verses 22 and 23, this name is a name that was first given to the virgin-born Son of God by the Old Testament prophet, Isaiah, way back in Isaiah chapter 7, verse 14. Indeed, Jesus was given this name by this Holy Spirit-inspired prophet nearly 800 years before He was born! Important stuff!

However, what I believe to be equally important, and perhaps, more significant to us as we meditate again on what Christmas is all about, is the MEANING of this Ancient name for Jesus. And what does this name, Immanuel, mean?

That’s right! It means God with us! God with us! Sometime back, I was looking through my kid’s Children’s Bible Handbook for some simple, easy to understand, explanations of some things I was investigating, when I landed on the brief description listed under the heading: God. Here’s what the Children’s Bible Handbook has to say, “God: who is He? He is… the awesome Creator of the world, the Maker of all there is. God, what is He like? God is a spirit, and He does not have a body of flesh and blood as we do…”

Now, I want you to think about this simple definition and description of God with me for a moment. God is a spirit, not flesh and blood body like ours. He’s a spirit, and therefore, to flesh and blood folks like you and me, what is He? He’s unseen, and, as far as our 5 senses are concerned, He’s also unknown! He’s unseen, and as such, He’s unknown to us. And yet, made, as we are, in His image, what do we do? We wonder, and maybe even despair, asking, “Can we ever KNOW God? Can we ever SEE Him? Can we ever hear Him, touch Him and even experience Him?”

And, guess what? Then the answer, God’s amazing answer to this extremely important series of questions comes our way. And, what is the answer? Who is the answer?

Immanuel! Immanuel! We CAN know God! In Immanuel, we CAN see God! In Immanuel, we CAN hear Him, touch Him, and even experience Him! How? Because God’s Holy Spirit caused the virgin Mary to conceive and bring forth a Son, the Son of God named Immanuel – God with us!

Now that name Immanuel and it’s translation, God with us… I want you to take a closer look at each of those 3 words for a minute, will you?

First, the word, ‘God’. What is this incredible name, Immanuel, tell us about the Babe of Bethlehem’s manger? First thing, right off the bat, it tells us that He is God!! He is God! Not a ‘god’, with a small ‘g’, as some of the cultures would have us believe, but God – God, the Son – the Second Person of the Trinity! Yes, Immanuel, He is God! Not an idol to be venerated during the Advent Season, but God! Immanuel, He is God. Not a tabernacle, a portable worship center to be moved from place to place. He is God! Not a temple, a supposedly permanent structure built for worship, but God, the God who pitched His tent, who tabernacled Himself, and dwelt among us (John 1:14). Immanuel, who is He? He is God. Not a great human prophet like Elijah, He is God. Not a great human priest like Aaron, no He is God. Not a great human king like David; He is God. Not even a great human warrior like Joshua, but God! Immanuel, He is God!

So, what difference does that make?

Ask the people who heard Him deliver that magnificent Sermon on the Mount… “Why, He speaks as One who has authority, and not as our Scribes. When He speaks we must listen and obey! Ask the centurion of Capernaum, whose servant lay at home paralyzed and in terrible suffering, what difference does it make that Jesus is God? “All He had to do was say the word. He simply said the word, ‘you servant is healed’, and he WAS healed!” What difference does it make that Jesus is God? Ask the disciples who thought their ship was sunk, literally, until He arose from His sleep and said, “Peace, be still!” What difference does it make that Jesus is God? Ask the blind men, sitting beside the Jericho road, whose request, “Lord, we want our sight,” would have flabbergasted you and me! Yes, what difference does it make that Jesus is God? Ask the priests, who saw the temple curtain torn in two from top to bottom; ask Mary and Martha, who received their beloved brother back from the dead; and ask Thomas, that doubter, who didn’t believe until He saw His Savior’s nail-pierced hands and riven side…” Ask them! They’ll tell you what difference it makes that He is God!

Immanuel… who is He? He is God with us. Then what about that second word that translates the meaning of the name, Immanuel. The word, “with”. “With”!

You know it, don’t you? Christians like you and me, because we are seeking to be like our Lord, we offer to minister to one another, during those times of crisis in our lives, and what do we say to each other at those times? What kind of consolation do we offer to one another? We say things like… “I’m just a phone call away. I’m only down the street from you. I’m right next door to you. I’m WITH you! I’m here for you…”

Now, don’t get me wrong, we need to minister and be ready to minister to each other. And, it’s good to remind the one in need that we’re there to help. But really, now?! Have you ever called the preacher’s phone and gotten his voice mailbox? I bet you have! How many of you have ever stopped by your elders’ homes and found no one there? And, how many of you have ever wished, in the middle of the night, that you could run across town to talk to your brother or sister in Christ, but didn’t, because you knew he or she would be in bed asleep?!

You get where I’m going with this, I’m sure! With us, there are voice mailboxes, no answers to our door bell ringing, and times when we’re simply not available for each other. With Immanuel, there’s never a busy signal! With Immanuel, there will ALWAYS be Someone, the Great I-Am, on the other end of the line! And yes, praise God, with Immanuel, YOU can rest in peace knowing that He’s wide awake, and watching over you!

Immanuel… Immanuel! What a marvelous name! Immanuel, Who is He? He is God! Not a lifeless idol; not an ornate covenant box; not a good luck charm; not even the best Son of Adam you can think of; but God! He is God! The God who calms storms and feeds multitudes with a little boy’s sack lunch. The God Who gives sight to the blind eyes and breath to lifeless bodies. Immanuel, He is God. He is God. But, then – secondly, please remember that he is also WITH. Yes, with, not down the street, not across tow, nor even just a phone call away. But, Immanuel is WITH us. He is WITH us.

Then, third and finally, here’s the most unbelievable part of all about that precious name, Immanuel and what is means – the last word, just 2 letter, U-S. Us! God with us! Does the word ‘sinner’ seem to fit? How about this description, Ephesians 2:13, “Far away from God…”? Or, what about this one: all our righteousness is nothing but a bunch of filthy rags! Or, maybe you’re like Peter, the supposed expert when it comes to fishing, after Immanuel told him where to let down his nets. Remember his words, “Go AWAY from me, Lord! Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!” Or, perhaps, we look at the ‘spots’ of our rebellion, and the blemishes of our disobedience to God, and all we can think of is how we’re just like those 10 lepers were: unclean! Unclean! You know, everyone wants to get as far away as they can from me, from us.

But, then along comes Immanuel, and what does He say? What does He do? He says, “I didn’t come to all the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” He says, “Come and go with me, and I’ll show you how to fish for men!” He reaches out to you and me, and TOUCHES us, even though we’re covered with the leprosy, the filth of sin. He becomes sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him! He sheds His own blood to bring us near to Him! Thus, through Immanuel, we can shout with the Psalmists: “God is with us! He is our Shepherd! God with us, He is our light and our salvation! God with us, He is our refuge and strength. And, God with us, He is the One who leads us to the rock that is higher than we are!”

Immanuel – God… with… us…! What a precious name! What an incredibly important name! Beloved, my question for you this morning is: do you KNOW Him by that name? Is He YOUR Immanuel?

I was jotting down some notes for this message, and I happened to write down the letters for the word ‘Christ’, in order to formulate a kind of acrostic statement about who He is. And here’s what I came up with:

Christ came
Here to
Redeem us… Our
Immanuel and
Savior, in whom we
Trust and have taken refuge!

Christ came Here to Redeem us, our Immanuel and Savior, in whom we Trust and have taken refuge.

Think again about the questions I asked just a moment ago. Do you know Jesus by that precious name Immanuel? Is He your Immanuel?

The answer to these two supremely important questions takes us back to my little acrostic, and that all-important last letter – the letter ‘T’. Is Jesus your Immanuel? He is, if you Trust Him. He is, if you have taken refuge in Him!

Immanuel, God with us. There’s not a better Christmas gift available ANYWHERE, than Immanuel! Receive the gift, will you? Put your truth in Him, taken refuge in Him! Let Him be your Immanuel!

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