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Immanuel - God With Us

What Child is This (1)

Pastor Gary Buchman
Emmitsburg Community Bible Church

(12/7) I believe with all my heart that we are in danger of losing Christmas. We were commenting in our home, that as wonderful as the Hallmark channel is, and they have some fun Christmas movies on everyday, never is Jesus mentioned. Any reference to to the supernatural is usually about Mrs. Miracle, or Santa Claus. Our celebration has become a mixed bag of fanciful legends, superstition, some pagean ideas, and intentional ignorance. Even the Christian radio stations are playing, secular Christmas music. While I like White Christmas, Winter Wonderland, and Jingle Bell Rock, I want to hear Christmas songs about Jesus. Our celebrations of Christmas seldom include any singing of carols or scripture reading in in our homes.

John MacArthur told the story of a wealthy couple from Boston 40-50 years ago, who according to the newspaper, had a christening party for their new baby. They invited all their friends and relatives to their magnificent home to celebrate the birth of their precious infant. A half hour into the party when it was time to bring out the baby for everyone to see, the mother nmade a tragic discovery. The large bed where she had left the baby asleep had been piled high with the coats from the guests. The baby was lying dead, underneath the mound, suffocated by the carelessly discarded wraps.

That pathetic scene perfectly illustrates what the world has done to Christmas. The celebration of the birth of Jesus has been forgotten and smothered by all the haste and commotion that we now call Christmas. (John MacArthur, God With Us, Zondervan, 1989, p.9)

For the next few weeks, I want to bypass the shepherds, the angels, the stable, the wisemen, and a couple's journey to Bethlehem and go back and look at the Promise that God gave of a Savior and the Hope He was to bring. From as early as the first sin in Eden, God had promised a Satan crushing Savior that would be of the seed of a Woman (Gen. 3:15). He would come through the lineage of Noah, Shem, Abraham, Jacob, Judah, and David. He would be a Prophet like Moses (Deut. 18:15) A Priest like Melchizedak (Psalm 110:4) and A King like David (2 Sam. 7:16). He would be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2) and would be the very presence of God among His creation as both Micah and Isaiah reveal to us (Micah 5:2; Look at Isaiah 7:14; 9:6-7). Ephesians 1:4-5 and 1 Peter 1:20 remind us that He planned all this before He created anything.

It is the Isaiah passages that we will look at and consider the 5-6 names or character traits of this promised Child. No one ever called Jesus by these names. What God is saying by Isaiah is that these names describe His character or attributes. He is:

  • Immanuel - God with us- God in human flesh
  • Wonderful Counselor - or the Counselor that is so awesome that He is beyond description
  • The Mighy God - or the Strong Hero God - a mighty soldier
  • The Everlasting Father - or the one whose care for His children goes back before time
  • The Prince of Peace - or the one whose rule is characterized by harmony and tranquility
  • Implied is that He is the King of Kings- the one who by Himself will shoulder the affairs of all the world Himself, no cabinet, no staff. He is King of Kings.

Let me take you back about 2750 years ago in Israel. Uzziah was king when Isaiah answered the call to preach for God. Uzziah was a military genius and a good God fearing King, except on one occasion when he was so filled with pride, he went into the Holy place to offer prayers and incense to God. The problem was that this was a place and job for only the priests and no one else. As a result Uzziah or Azariah was given leprosy and was confined to his quarters for the rest of his life and ruled through his Jothan who was good God fearing man, but the country itself was turning away from God. When these men died, Uzziah's grandson Ahaz became king. Ahaz was an occultist, who offer his own children as a cultic sacrifice and consulted the dead, and turned away completely from God.

At this time the Assyrians, (the guys from Ninevah, that Jonah wanted judged) were rising in power. Ahaz tried to ally himself with Assyria. The Syrians and the Northern Israelites teamed up to woop Judah. God sent a message of grace to Isaiah to give to Ahaz. If Ahaz would listen and turn to God, God would bless him. He offered proof of this by telling Ahaz to ask for any sign he wanted, nothing would be out of the bounds of God's grace. But in contempt of God, Ahaz would not ask for anything. God then says that He would give a sign that would exceed the times and be for the whole nation, the whole world. A virgin would conceive and bear a son who would be called Immanuel. In a kind of dual application, God also tells Isaiah that he would re-marry as his first wife died and his children and he would also be signs to Israel (Isaiah 8:18), but this virgin born son would be unique. Israel would fall under God's chastening and dark days would come that would last for centuries, but that Baby, would be the source of light in that darkness. We will speak more of this next week.

700 years later, Levi, son of Alpheaus, and known to us as Matthew along with a Physician named Lucius or Luke wrote that, a virgin named Mary did indeed become pregnant and gave birth to a son that they named Jesus. Listen to Matthew 1:20-23, "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."

J.I. Packer, Knowing God, "It is here, in the thing that happened at the first Christmas that the profoundest and most unfathomable depths of the Christian revelation lie…God became man; the divine son became a Jew; the Almighty appeared on earth as a helpless human baby, unable to do more than lie and stare and wriggle and make noises, needing to be feed and changed and taught to talk like any other child. And this was no delusion, no deception. The babyhood of the son of God was a reality. The more you think about it, the more staggering it gets. Nothing in fiction is so fantastic as is the truth of the incarnation."

Let's spend our remaining moments this morning focusing on why God came to us in the flesh. To do this let's go to John's version of the Christmas story. First, look at Isaiah 8:18-9:3. The time period between Isaiah and the birth of Jesus was a time of darkness. Darkness implies ignorance. The people didn't know God, they didn't know the truth of God's love and grace, The nation had turned to idolatry. Darkness prevents people from seeing the truth about themselves and their need for God. And darkness is the characteristic of the world since sin came into it and Satan has been allowed to control it, and our selfish desires have dominated our pursuits. But John begins his Gospel by reminding us that Jesus came to be the Light in this dark world (John 1:1-10)

Let’s go back and remind ourselves of:

God’s Plan

A. To Provide Salvation - God’s plan was to create life, yet His plan included the creation of more than life. He created life that He could have a personal relationship with; life that was similar to His- In His image and likeness. So, He created our first parents. Can you imagine what it must have been like to walk with God visibly, personally as Adam and Eve did for a while? They enjoyed that, until the day when they decided to listen to a different voice and ignore their Lord and friend’s counsel. From that point on, man never knew what it was like to be with God. Someone said, that God became like a distant uncle that we know about but have never met. Yet God knew that this would happen and had already planned to do something. He planned to send a Savior.

B. To Provide Revelation - God’s plan was also to provide Revelation; that is, He wanted us to know Him and to know what He is like, and to know the best way to live so we could be in harmony with Him both now and forever. So He gave us the Bible. He began by giving us the Old Testament with its laws. John 1:17 says that the law was given by Moses. One of the major purposes for the law was to show us how to be Holy, because God is Holy (Lev. 11:44), without Holiness, the author of Hebrews reminds us, we cannot see God (Heb. 12:14). God gave us the Bible so we could know Him. But the Old Testament seemed to present a one - sided picture of God. That He was simply a God of Judgment without much grace. It really did not, but its understanding seemed to be and God wanted man to know Him completely. So He sent His Son.

The Purpose of Jesus

Jesus came to reveal God to us. That is what these verses in John are all about, that is, revealing God so that we would want to know our God personally, intimately. Notice:

A. Who He is - Jesus is God in the Flesh (John 1:1-3; 14). He was not just a Spirit or an idea. The original source of wisdom and light and life – the Logos, the word, came in a real human body. This was God that was laid in a manger. Paul said it well, "Without Controversy, great is the mystery of Godliness: God was manifested in the flesh, Justified in the Spirit, Seen by angels, preached among the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up in Glory" (1 Tim. 3:16).

B. What He did – He Pitched His tent among us- He dwelt among us. The Old Testament imagery of God having a Tabernacle, a portable tent sanctuary that had a Holy place where the glory of God came and inhabited (Ex. 40:34-35), among the people, yet distinctly separate from the people, again, indicating their sinfulness and His holiness. That is the picture. Jesus pitched His tent among us. In 1 John 1, John says, "we saw Him, we heard Him, and we touched Him" (1 John 1:1-4). Sometimes I can hardly imagine, let alone trying to understand, how a Holy God would come to us and want to walk among us and be one of us.

C. What We See- Grace and Truth. When we see Jesus, we see Holiness for sure. The Bible reminds us that He knew no sin, that He kept the law perfectly, the only one who ever did. Our Lord even said, "Who can convict me of sin?" the obvious answer is, no one. In Jesus we see the Holiness of God, but we see more:

  • We See the Grace of God. We see God’s forgiveness for thieves, and prostitutes, and murderers, and good sinners like you and me. We see God going to places that good religious people would not go so that sinners would know that there is a God who loves them. We see God touching the untouchables and loving the unlovable. We see second chances and third chances and 70 x 7 grace. We see enemies loved and prayed for. We see good things being done for unthankful people. We see the sun shine and the rain on the just and on the unjust. We see Grace. And that Grace, well we have all drank from its well. John wants us to know that, that well is always full and never runs dry. You and I can not exhaust it (v. 16). Is there anyone here today, who believes there is no more grace for you; that you may have exhausted your ration of grace? You are wrong! God’s grace is like the ocean and your need is like a Dixie cup. You can draw as much as you need and it will always be full.
  •  We See Truth. In Jesus we see and understand the truth about ourselves and the truth about God. How God is Holy and we are not, and How we need a Substitute, and How we can not earn Heaven no matter how good we are, and how it does matter what you believe because not all religions are about the true God and therefore, there can be only one way to be saved and know this God. We even see truth about religion and righteousness and how God wants a relationship more than He wants religion. Jesus is truth, He taught us the truth about God’s laws, how God wants the heart and mind more than the action or lack of action. In Matt. 5 we hear Jesus say, "I know you have heard this law taught this way, but I want to clarify that for you". What do you see when you see Jesus? You see God, You see Holiness, but you see Grace and truth.
  • We See the Glory of God Revealed (v. 18 cp. Col. 2:9). It is no wonder that Peter would say, "Depart from me Lord, I am a sinful man," or Thomas would fall down at His feet and say, "My Lord and My God." Jesus came to be the special lens through which we could see God and know him and have a relationship with Him (John 17:1-4). Jesus is the visible expression of the invisible God.

4. We See Easter - (John 1:29)

My friends, the reason for Christmas is Easter. Jesus came to be the Lamb of God that took our place in death, that we might have His place in life. Only an absolutely sinless person could pay the penalty for a sinner. Only God could pay for us and offer us grace. So Jesus came. Immanuel, God with us, to die for us, and then rise again to give us life and a place in God;s family (John 1:11-12), and only those who receive Him by a personal choice are granted that place in His family. Are you part of His family?

The Potential of The Church

The importance of all of this is this. What Jesus did is exactly what we are to do. God saved us so that He could know us and we could know Him. And then, God comes to live inside of us, so that we could do what Jesus did. No, not walk on water, or raise the dead, or die for the sins of the world and rise again, but to show people Grace and Truth and to make the invisible God – visible.

  • In the Old Testament – God was among His people in the Holy of Holies. He was with them, but separate from them.
  • In the Gospels – God was among His people in the person of Jesus. He was with them and touched them and spoke to them personally and loved them.
  • In the New Testament and Now– God is among people as He is housed in us who have received Him as a host receives a guest into their house. Have you received Jesus into your life? A Promise of the Savior is that He was going to send His Holy Spirit to live in us forever; that is, those who receive Him (John 14:16-17). He told the disciples that they would receive the promise of the Holy Spirit and when they do they were to go to the world and testify of Jesus (Acts 1:8). The Holy Spirit came on Pentecost and then on every person who repents of sin and receives Jesus as Savior and Lord. We are now the Temple of God, God resides in us and He is there so we might make the invisible God –visible (1 Cor. 6:19-20). But the only way we can do that is if we stop just going to church and start being the church and unless we do we will not impact this world or our community. We will just be a dot on the country side and God wants us to be world changers. We will go the way of Germany, England, Scotland where the church is practically non-existent and considered irrelevant. The first church was known as turning the world upside down (Acts 17:6). Jesus came to start a Revolution – not establish an institution. His church would be a called out company of world changers. His church would show and tell Grace and Truth to the world.
  • There are at least 3 ways that we are to make the invisible God – visible to the world.
    • By a Changed Character. Followers of Jesus Christ are repentant people, who are sorry for sin and un-holiness and who by the Holy Spirit that resides in them and the Word of God to guide them have their lives changed as they are born again. God begins to shape them to be like Jesus and the world should marvel at the change. Does the world marvel that your life is different than theirs and different than what you used to be? Do you have more peace amidts your conflicts, more hope amidst your trials, more faith amidst your needs? The world is watching.
    • By Compassionate Conduct. Followers of Jesus Christ are people of compassion who give of their time, treasures and talents to meet the needs of the hungry, the hurting, the lost, the bruised, the tired, and the lost people of their community and world. Christmas is a great time to start doing this. But don't limit it to Christmas. Followers of Jesus are people who forgive their offenders and pray for their enemies and reach out to those who have hurt them. Followers of Jesus make the invisible God – visible as they love the unlovely and demonstrate mercy to the undeserving, and grace to the needy, because they remember that, that is exactly what God did for them.
    • By Concerned Communication. Followers of Jesus look for and intentionally tell people that they need to know Jesus, that He died for them and rose again so they could know they an go to Heaven and know the God who created them personally and not like a distant uncle that they have never met. I have a challenge for you. Why not, in your Christmas cards, include a letter. Write a letter and share your story and how you came to know Jesus and how He shed His grace on you, and the reason you celebrate Christmas. It will encourage your Christian friends and it might cause those who don't know Jesus to ask questions or to consider trusting Jesus. Why not think of the unsaved friends that you work with, go to school with, or live near you and send them a Christmas letter. Not just a tract. While tracts are good, they aren't as good as your story. Keep it brief, keep it to the point, don't glorify the sin, but glorify the Savior. You might be the key to someone being born again, as you celebrate the birth of Immanuel.

You and I are called to make the invisible God visible. We are called to show the world- Grace and Truth. Someone once said, "You may be the only Bible that some people ever read."

So, there you have it. That's why Immanuel came and that's your purpose in this world.

Read other thoughtful writings by Pastor Gary Buchman