Skip to comments."Where Is God? Answer: Immanuel" (Sermon for Christmas Eve, on Matthew 1:18-25)
Posted on 12/23/2013 8:17:34 PM PST by Charles Henrickson
Where Is God? Answer: Immanuel (Matthew 1:18-25)
Where is God in the midst of all of this? You hear this question all the time these days. Whenever there is a tragedy in the news, you hear people asking this question. Where is God, and then fill in the blank. Where is God when a tornado levels Moore, Oklahoma, or a typhoon devastates the Philippines? Where is God when there is a terrible school shooting--in Connecticut, in Colorado--and innocent children die? Where are you, God? Why did you let this happen?
Or lets bring it closer to home. Where is God when a dear friend, as active and vibrant as all get out, and the most dedicated of Christians--when she suffers a stroke? Does God not care for her? Where is God when our loved one finally gets the surgery he needs to relieve his chronic pain--and then he falls, and now he needs to have another surgery, this time perhaps even riskier? Why did God let this happen? Or lets make the tragedy more relational than physical: Where is God when your spouse leaves you for no good reason? Has he forgotten me? Why did he let this happen? Where is God when he must know that our little congregation is struggling, hurting for members and attendance and offerings? Were being faithful in our doctrine and practice. So why isnt God blessing our church with growth?
These are tough questions. They deal with the tough reality we face in our world, in our church, and in our lives. Where is God in all of this? There are no easy answers to this question. Oh, there is an answer, and well get to it this evening, but that doesnt mean God instantly does away with all the pain and loss and grief we experience in life. But there is an answer to our question, and it is a good one. In fact, it is a great one, much better than anything we could come up with. And it has everything to do with Christmas.
Where is God? Why did he let this happen? You know, were not the first ones to ask this question. Indeed, it is a perennial question, one that people ask every time they are faced with a tragedy or a crisis or a terrible situation in their life. Imagine this situation: Youre a man engaged to a young woman, a woman you think is a very devout and godly person. Youre looking forward so much to your life together. But then, quite unexpectedly, she turns up pregnant. And you know, you absolutely know, that you could not possibly be the father. No, you have conducted yourself in an honorable manner, as a gentleman, holding off on intimacy until the proper time. Yet even so, she is definitely pregnant. This comes as a shock, of course. You feel betrayed. How could she do this to me? I feel humiliated, angry even. Now Ill have to break this off. Here I thought God was guiding my life, our life. Why did he let this happen? God, where are you in this lousy, miserable situation?
So could have been the thoughts of a man named Joseph. He was faced with a personal crisis. His betrothed, Mary, was the young woman who had gotten herself pregnant. His betrothed had betrayed him. This was the only conclusion he could reach. And in every other case but this one, he would have been right. But such was not the case. Joseph didnt know where God was in all of this. He didnt have an answer to his questions, not a good one. But it turns out that God was indeed there, with Joseph, and God was going to bring something good out of this bad situation.
An angel of the Lord appears to Joseph in a dream, saying, Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from 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 of course this is a totally unique answer, specifically for Joseph in his particular situation, because this is a totally unique child that is going to be born. But the point for us, in terms of the Where is God? question, is that God was at work, working things out for Josephs good--not to mention, for the good of the whole world--even though Joseph couldnt see it at the time.
Lets look a little more closely at what the angel told Joseph, to see why this is good news for Joseph and for us. First, the angel calls him Joseph, son of David. Whats up with that? Well, it means that Joseph is a descendant of the great King David, who lived about a thousand years earlier. And the Lord had promised David that one of his sons, one of his descendants, would be the greatest king of all, ushering in an everlasting kingdom of blessing. That son of David would be the promised Messiah. Now here the angel calls Joseph son of David--not that Joseph himself would be the Messiah, but that child that Mary would bear? He would be the Messiah, the Christ, the promised king of glory. And although Joseph is not the childs physical father, by his naming the child, Joseph will make him his son legally, and thus an heir to the throne of David, which the Messiah must be.
And then theres the name that the angel tells Joseph to name the child. Jesus, that will be the baby boys name. Now there would have been a lot of baby boys back then named Jesus. It was a fairly common name. In the Hebrew, its Yeshua, a form of the familiar Hebrew name Joshua, one of the great leaders of Israels past, and thus a popular name for Jewish boys. But this Yeshua, this Jesus, would really live up to his name. For the name Yeshua or Yehoshua means The Lord saves. In other words, the name Jesus literally means Savior. The baby is given a name to fit his mission. For he comes to be the Savior, Josephs Savior and your Savior--indeed, the Savior of the world! And what does he save us from? From our most basic, most serious, all-encompassing problem, which is our sins.
You shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins. This is our root problem, the one that leads to all the other problems and troubles and tragedies in our lives and in the world. Its the sin problem. It affects and afflicts every one of us. The end result is death. Our sins consist of everything wrong that we do against Gods will. This is what causes all the pain and heartache in the world--sin. Its why this whole world is so screwed up. Its the guilt cloud hanging over us. Its the shroud of death that envelopes us. If theres going to be an answer from God that is strong enough to deal with death and tragedy, it must be one that gets to the root of the problem, which is mans sin.
Thats why this baby is born, to do just that. This Jesus will live up to his name. He will be Savior. He will save us all from our sins by taking that big bundle of sin upon himself. From the wood of the manger he will go to the wood of the cross. There this Jesus will die a sinners death, in our place, freeing you from the judgment for sin marked out for you. Christ comes to set you free. His death means your life--eternal life, as shown in Christs mighty resurrection, to which you have been joined in your baptism.
Are you beginning to see the answer? The answer is much bigger than God just preventing this or that individual tragedy. Gods answer gets to the root of all tragedies and all pain and all sorrow. Its a bigger answer than we would have thought of, and ironically it comes in the form of this little baby, the one named Jesus, Savior.
Where is God in all of this? Heres the answer. The gospel writer, St. Matthew, tells us: All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel (which means, God with us).
Immanuel--thats it. Again to the Hebrew: Immanu, which means with us. El, which means God. Immanuel, the with-us God. Its this baby boy Jesus. He is Immanuel, God with us. Do you want to know where God is? Look for a baby in manger on this night. Unusual place for a king to be born, but there he is, in a cattle stall. Where is God? You can see him later healing the sick, making a lame man walk and a blind man see. You can see him raising a fathers little girl and a widows only son--raising them from the dead. This is God with us, Immanuel, doing what only God can do and showing us what is in store for us, on the day when Christ returns. Where is God? You can find him--well, you can find him here, now, in this church, where he promises to be with his people, to forgive their sins and strengthen their faith and form them into a community of love and care and support--especially for those times when were hurting and wondering where God is. Yes, in the church, where Christ is present with his people--this is where God is today.
Where is God in all of this, in the midst of all the tragedies and turmoil of this life? There are no easy answers, not ones that magically do away with the pain and the heartache. But there is an answer, nevertheless. The answer for Joseph is the answer for us. Gods answer is the one comprehensive answer, the one that gets to the root of all the problems all at once, all wrapped up in one bundle. Its this little bundle of joy, born on this night, wrapped in swaddling clothes, and his name is Jesus, Savior. Where is God? Answer: Immanuel, God with us.
Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins. All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:
Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall call his name Immanuel
(which means, God with us). When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.
Thank you for this timely sermon which is at the heart of Christmas.
From one of my favorite Christmass Eucharistic Canons:
Come, Spirit of Holiness
come upon the prairies, the hills, the deserts, the seas,
this city and upon this assembly;
Come, Holy Spirit
sanctify these gifts of grain
and fruit of the vine
uniting us with all creation;
Come, Spirit of Life
bless our feasting at this table
and open our eyes to recognize the risen Christ in each other,
in all for whom Jesus died,
and especially for our enemies
Make us bearers of your peace
and shepherds of your grace,
in the waters of rebirth
in the image
of the Bethlehem Baby,
we may live as people purified
for your own purpose,
So in that day,
when all creation dwells in heaven’s reign,
as we gather around
heaven’s Welcome Table,
we will celebrate you
as Emmanuel, God-among-us,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, endlessly throughout eternity,
LOL, kind of a direct contradiction there. Why didn't he call him "Immanuel" instead of "Jesus"?
No contradiciton whatsoever. His name is Jesus, but he can be called other things besides. To wit:
Luke 1:31-32; 2:21
"And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High." . . . "And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb."
His name is Jesus. He is also called "the Son of the Most High."
"'She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.' All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: 'Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel' (which means, God with us). . . . And he [Joseph] called his name Jesus."
His name is Jesus. He is also called "Immanuel."
People can have a name and also be called something else.
"...and they shall call his name Immanuel' ... And he [Joseph] called his name Jesus."
Sounds like two names to me.
Jesus is called more than two names, of course you have to read the Bible once in a while.
Merry Christmas ...
18 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.
19 Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly.
20 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.
21 And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.
22 So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying:
23 Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel, which is translated, God with us.
24 Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife,
25 and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son. And he called His name Jesus.
26 Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth,
27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgins name was Mary.
28 And having come in, the angel said to her, Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!
29 But when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was.
30 Then the angel said to her, Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.
31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus.
32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David.
33 And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.
34 Then Mary said to the angel, How can this be, since I do not know a man?
35 And the angel answered and said to her, The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.
4 Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David,;
5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child.
6 So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered.
7 And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
8 Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night.
9 And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid.
10 Then the angel said to them, Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.
11 For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
12 And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.
13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:
14 Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!
15 So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.
16 And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger.
17 Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child.
18 And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds.
19 But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart.
20 Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them.
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
2 He was in the beginning with God.
3 All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.
4 In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.
5 And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.
6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.
7 This man came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all through him might believe.
8 He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light.
9 That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world.
10 He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him.
11 He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him.
12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name:
13 who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.
15 John bore witness of Him and cried out, saying, This was He of whom I said, He who comes after me is preferred before me, for He was before me.
16 And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace.
17 For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
18 No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.
Oh, that explains it. You see, I found a ripped Reader's Digest version of the Bible in a laundromat in 1988 and the only thing it had in it was the name "Jesus" and something about specks and planks and eyes.
I guess I'll go check out another laundromat, maybe I can find something about names versus titles.
Keep working on it, you'll get there.
But will I get the t-shirt, too?
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