Sermon: He is Immanuel
John Telgren
Summary: God no longer comes near through a burning bush, tabernacle, prophet, or vision. He has come near through Jesus, who is God in the flesh, in order to reconcile us to him so that we can serve him and also carry the message of reconciliation to others. Know: Jesus has come to live in our hearts through faith so that we can serve him and carry his message to those who need to hear it Feel: A desire to be near to God and fulfill his will Do: Reflect on the extent God went to in order to draw you near to him and how being near him should change your life. Identify specific ways God can use you to draw others near to him. Text: Matt 1:18-25 Have you every heard of Heavenly beans? Little Carried thought that this time of year was for heavenly beans because people sing about it everywhere. The song, Silent Night, that ends with the line, "sleep in heavenly beans." Was her favorite song. Carrie's brother corrected her. He said, "do you ever see beans at Christmas? Of course not! That's because it is no "heavenly beans." It is, "sleep in heavenly peas." That is a commentary about how you can hear something over and over again and still not get it. It seems in the last ten to fifteen years, there has been a surge of interest in Biblical stories. Movies about Jesus and other Bible characters have been increasing. Most of them just don't get it. I used to say that people were more comfortable with Jesus' divinity than his humanity. I perceive that this is beginning to shift. Many of the portrayals of Jesus portray his humanity more than his divinity. I believe that the greatest misunderstanding this time of year is not that Jesus was born on December 25th, because he most likely was not. I don't believe that the greatest misunderstanding is that Christmas is an official Christian holiday. It is a human tradition not a God-ordained holy day. I believe the greatest misunderstanding has to do with the significance of who Jesus is. Let's look at the announcement given to Joseph in Matthew 1:18-25. "Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: when His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit. And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned to send her away secretly. But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. "She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins." Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: "BEHOLD, THE VIRGIN SHALL BE WITH CHILD AND SHALL BEAR A SON, AND THEY SHALL CALL HIS NAME IMMANUEL," which translated means, "GOD WITH US." And Joseph awoke from his sleep and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took {Mary} as his wife, but kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son; and he called His name Jesus." Joseph thought that Mary must have been unfaithful. She was going to have a child, and they were not married yet. An angel of the Lord tells Joseph not to be afraid to take Mary as his wife. She had not been unfaithful. God was at work here and the child was of the Holy Spirit. The text gives us two names to describe Jesus. The angel told Joseph that his name was to be "Yeshua," which means savior or deliverer. Jesus was to save the people from their sins. What had the people's sins done in the past? What did their lying, dishonesty, envy, violence, exploitation, adultery, fornication, murder, bring them? What did their choosing to ignore God's will cause? In Israel's history, sins led to droughts, enemy attacks, hardship, and ultimately to capture and captivity by a foreign nation. Their sins stood between them and the protection and blessing of God. Jesus came to save the people from their sins. But he came to do more than just save the people from their sins. Matthew quotes from Isaiah, "they shall call his name Immanuel," which means "God with us." God with us. What is that all about? God was "with" Adam and Eve in the garden. God used to walk in the garden with them. Then they committed the first sin. They stopped walking with God. Their sin had come between them and God. As a result, they were alienated from God. But God had a plan. He didn't leave things the way they were. Mankind multiplied and filled the earth. Even though the continued to sin, God never gave up on them. God made a promise to a man named Abraham. He called him from his home to go to a land which he would show them. He told them that through his seed, all the nations of the earth would be blessed. Abraham would have a descendant that would bring God's blessing on everyone. You and I would be able to have the blessing of God through him. God "came near" to Israel at the base of Mount Sinai. His presence came and covered the top of Mount Sinai. There he instructed the people to build him a sanctuary, a tabernacle. In the tabernacle was a place called the Holy of Holies. In the Holy of Holies, there was to be an ark that contained the covenant. On the Ark of the Covenant was to be a "mercy seat." Here is what God says, Ex 25:21-22 "You shall put the mercy seat on top of the ark, and in the ark you shall put the testimony which I will give to you. There I will meet with you; and from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim which are upon the ark of the testimony, I will speak to you about all that I will give you in commandment for the sons of Israel." God's presence symbolically dwelt above the Cherubim on the Ark of the Covenant. God dwelt in the midst of his people in this tent. There was a reason why God called it the "Tent of Meeting." It was in this tent that the God and the people would meet. When they would offer up their offerings, they would bring it to the Tent of Meeting. When the High Priest offered atonement for the people on the day of Atonement, he would take the blood of the sacrifice and sprinkle it on the mercy seat. God came near and dwelt in among his people once again. However, the sin of the people didn't walk with God. They sinned over and over again until finally, God's presence left his sanctuary. Without the presence of God and all of the blessings that his presence bring, the people became vulnerable to the attacks of the nations around them. First the Northern part of the land was taken away by the Assyrians. Then the Southern part of the land was taken away by the Babylonians. But God still was not through yet. He still had a plan. In the past, God had appeared to his people and communicated to them in many different ways. He usually appeared in the form of fire. Whether it was in the burning bush, on top of Mount Sinai, over the Tabernacle, or in the throne room in Isaiah, fire was a common way for God to appear. Why? Think about fire for a moment. At camp, we build a camp fire, and the kids are fascinated with it. They gather around it, and before we get started, many of them are already staring at it. Fire offers light. Fire offers warmth. Fire has a natural draw. But fire is not completely safe. Fire both draws and repels. You want to get closer, but not too close or you will get burned. Fire can either be comforting, or it can be terrifying. Ask anyone who has survived a house fire. If it is not treated right, fire can destroy. Anyone who deals with fire knows to have a healthy respect for it. This communicates the Holiness of God. You feel drawn to God, but not too close or he will burn you. You can't treat him any way you want or you will get burned. By nature, God is holy and is worthy of the utmost respect and honor. God is now about to appear in a way no one expects. John puts it very clearly. John 1:1-5 - "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it." God and the Word is one. God and his word created the universe. All of us came into being through God's word. He spoke everything into existence by his word. John 1:6-8 - "There came a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to testify about the Light, so that all might believe through him. He was not the Light, but {he came} to testify about the Light." This is talking about John the Baptist. He came and prepared the way for the light. John 1:9-13 - "There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, {even} to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God." God appeared in a burning bush to Moses, as a pillar of fire that moved from Sinai to the tabernacle. He came to his own. He "came near" in his sanctuary, in his tabernacle. However, the people did not receive him. They were disobedient. As a result, God's presence left his people. But he was not through yet. His plan was still in motion. His plan was to come near again, but not in a way that anyone expected. John 1:14 - "And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth." The word became flesh and dwelt among us. Literally, the word "dwelt" means "tented." The word became flesh "tented/tabernacled" among us. In other words, God came near. But he didn't take up residence in a tabernacle. He tabernacled himself in flesh, in a human body! Once again, God came near. But this was nearer than he had ever been before. John said, "We saw his glory!" In the past, no one could see his glory. Moses once asked God "I pray you, show me your glory (Exod 33:18ff)." But God said that no one could see his face and live. God allowed Moses to see a glimpse of his back. God covered him in the cleft of rock, covered it with his hand until he passed by, and when he took his hand away, Moses got a brief glimpse of his back. In Christ, we get more than a glimpse. John did not say, "we got a glimpse of his glory," but we saw his glory. Literally, it means, "we got a good look at his glory." Notice how Jesus communicates this toward the end of his ministry. John 14:6-9 - "Jesus *said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me. If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; from now on you know Him, and have seen Him. Philip *said to Him, "Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us. Jesus *said to him, "Have I been so long with you, and {yet} you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how {can} you say, 'Show us the Father'?" If you know Christ, you know God. In fact, the only way to know God and be reconciled to God is through Jesus. When God became flesh, when he became a man, it was as if he were saying, "Let me both make a way and show you the way to God." In the past, God had spoken from burning bushes, mountaintops, through prophets, and visions. God had a message of reconciliation for the people. God still has a message of reconciliation for us today. He doesn't do it through burning bushes or mountain tops, but through his word become flesh. In other words, God's ultimate message of reconciliation is through a flesh a blood human being. Because he was both man and God, he could bring man and God together. He did this through becoming flesh, and in the flesh dying for our sins. That is the significance of his birth. How should we respond? If you are not a Christian, then respond to the Gospel. If you believe that Jesus Christ is God in the flesh and died for your sins on the cross and rose from the grave, and you are ready to accept him as your Lord and Your Savior, then respond to his call right now. Obey the Gospel by repenting and being baptized, and he will cleanse you of your sins. He has come near, and will come even nearer when you respond. Eph 3:17 says that Christ will dwell in our hearts through faith. He came from Heaven to a tabernacle, to a manger, and now dwells in our hearts through faith. For those of us that have done this already, consider the nature of God's plan and how he communicates it. His ultimate message was not a vision, burning bush, or anything like that. His ultimate message was a flesh and blood human being. Not only did he teach holiness and mercy, he demonstrated it in his life through his acts of kindness. That is still his plan today. He uses flesh and blood human beings to take his Gospel to those that need to hear it. That is you and I. You know the significant of the incarnation. Be ready to share that message not only during this season, but throughout the year not only by your acts of kindness, but by sharing the Gospel.