This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. (Matthew 1:18)
Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. (Matthew 1:19)
But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. (Matthew 1:20)
She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21)
All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: (Matthew 1:22)
“The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”). (Matthew 1:23)
One of the great challenges of Christmas is going back to familiar words and familiar themes and letting them address you instead of just letting them kind of lull you to sleep. The biggest difficulty is they have sentimental value, and as a result, what they can actually do is they can hijack your heart and take it down a purely emotional track instead of these words actually addressing your heart and letting you see the importance of them, the reality of them.
Immanuel is translated directly from the Hebrew word. Emmanuel is translated from the greek which was translated from the hebrew.
These 3 words echo throughout the generations of Christianity and they teach us something that is so life changing that our ancestors gave their life for it.
John Wesley, the great founder of the Methodist Church, as he was dying, the last words were, “The best of all is, God is with us.” Immanuel."
"Every one of those words will last longer than the whole earth."
In other parts of his writing he would say this. (That's actually maybe not true. I got it from Tim Keller and I can't tell if it's Tim or if he's quoting Wesley. Either way, sounds better as Wesley.)
So what I want to do tonight is just spend a few minutes on each of the three words. Simple.
"Asking Jesus Into Your Heart"
For the vast majority of you who have received Christ, I bet the way that went down that you prayed a prayer that said something to the effect of 'Jesus, come into my heart'.
How many of you prayed something specifically like that?
B/C if you didn't, you're not a real Christian.
Pastor - South Africa - Liver.
There's this pastor in South Africa who tells this amazing story. He would go to these really remote tribes and preach the gospel, and of course he had a translator, well one time he was preaching the gospel and used the phrase 'asking jesus into your heart'. And the translator stopped and said 'that won't translate' and the translator explained that for this tribe, there was no connection with their heart being this emotional center of a person, but for this tribe, that was their liver. They considered their liver to be the emotional center of a person. So this preacher had to modify the sinners prayer to have these people invite Jesus into their liver. And I just think that's a really great story.
When - young -- Honey I shrunk Kids I think when I was young I kinda pictured this honey I shrunk the kids thing happen. When a physical tiny God comes and lives in my actual body.
Well that's one side of it, but there's also this very interesting sense of God coming to live in us, and also us living and having our being in him.
But the implication is clear. There's this closeness and that is reserved especially for him. That no one is as close as he is. Not even your spouse.
"The Creator God has become a human being. That’s the meaning of Christmas."
There are lots of religions that would have good things to say about Jesus but deny the fact that he's God. Well the bible doesn't make that mistake.
Put up Matthew 1:23
“Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means, “God is with us.”
The beginning on Matthew is the first time that we meet Jesus. And right away Matthew is telling us that Jesus IS God.
People will ask : “Where does it say Jesus is God?”
Well this is one place.
Another in Hebrews 1:8 where God the father says to Jesus "Your Throne Oh God is forever and ever."
This explains one very unique way that Christianity is exclusive.
We believe that to understand God, you need Jesus.
This point, point Number 1 is the difficult point. It gets easier with 2 & 3, but first we have to be abundantly clear - Jesus is God.
Triune This is another sermon for another time, but we believe in the Triune God - 3 in 1 - God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
So we as Christians are called to be gracious and kind, and full of mercy. And at the same time there are truths that we don't compromise on and this is one of them: That Jesus is God.
But with that said, there are lots of different paths to Jesus. When we think about the stories in this room for the Christians, and how unique all your stories are.
Some people came to Christ b/c of some head reason. In their search for meaning, they encountered Jesus and came to believe in Him. And it's in a way, a head thing. Others came because of a heart thing. There's something about Jesus that pulls at your heart.
But regardless of how you got here, we all agree that Jesus is the only way to God..
But there's lots of ways to Jesus.
Like Eugene Peterson says "Christ plays in ten thousand places."
So not every Christian will agree what Jesus was like, or how he does what he does, or what he's up to today, there's millions of different opinions on that.
All agree : Jesus is God.
This is the beautiful part.
And that's it's not some super generic, distant "yeah he's with us" thing, but it's that wherever we go, he's undeniably close.
Closer than any person could ever be.
Child - disney land. I don't know if you've ever had the experience of taking a child to disney land… But one thing that's so funny is that you ask them who they're most excited to see, and they'll talk your ear off, and then you stand in these eternal lines, and when they actually get to meet this person in a buzz lightyear costume, it's part amazing, part terrifying.
My point is that it's one thing to experience someone from a distance, and it's another to have someone so close that you can feel their breath.
And that's this shocking truth of advent. That God is near. Even right now.
Sometimes I need to be held.
I think about Moses and how when he went into the presence of God, he had to cover his face, but then it says that Jesus removed the vail that separates us.
If Moses were to see our relationship with God, I think he would be jumping up and down saying 'That's the exact thing I was denied. That's all I wanted." And we have it.
He's just here. He's just present.
When you really understand this, is becomes the driving force in your life.
It's a source of peace, and of joy.
It's not just that you're not alone, it's that you've never been alone.
That's one thing that's so diabolical about performance based religion. Is that it makes God indifferent. It makes him this 'force' that you can use if you know the right spell.
Not about knowing the perfect things to pray, like God is some indifference 'force' that you can harness if you know the right spell. No he loves you. And he's near you.
And the Word became flesh and lived among us. (John 1:14)
The Word became flesh. And I think that's a really amazing idea because maybe the word always becomes flesh. Maybe that's the destination for it. And maybe in our believing that the word will go forth into the world the way that that happens is by us being a carrier of it. Maybe the way that God saves the world is through us.
You know you don't have to come to a church to experience God anymore right? God is not hanging out in particular area hoping you'll come visit him.
Like grandparent. Funny example of going to visit a grandparent and them resenting you for not being around enough. And then you leave, and they're sitting there alone in there rocking chair. Gods not like that.
Whereas before God's presence was in his tabernacle, the Bible makes it clear that now the presence of God is in Jesus. That Jesus is the tabernacle.
And now, Jesus sends US to be his hands and feet.
In fact, calling this building a church, it would technically be better to call you PEOPLE the church.
I honestly don't think God is as into buildings as we are.
I think he's into people.
We don't have to go and get people in compel them to come into the presence of God, no we are actually people who are able to bring the presence of God to them.
I've really worked on starting to think of myself like that. I'm a carrier of the presence of God.
Discount Tire Story So last week I was at discount tire getting Jordan's tires rotated. The lady came up to me and said I cannot believe the energy that is coming off of you. Who are you? I explained that my name was David and I was a pastor and she said oh, that's it. She raved about how strong my presence was and after talking for a few minutes she came to the conclusion that I was one of God's chosen ones. After a few minutes her car was ready, but she said she didn't want to leave me. She said that it was like I was filling her up. She asked to see all my tattoos and she just did not want to leave.
Sometimes I find myself in some hospital room with someone who's going through with unbelievably hard thing and I don't even know the right things to say, and then I remember that I'm somebody who brings the presence of God into the situation.
I bring God's peace with me, I bring God's hope with me.
Have you ever had somebody in your life that is really a challenge for you and then you find yourself praying God I just pray that you would send someone into their life to help them. Well I think the percentage is fairly high where that person is you.
Ken -- moving. Example - Outlet men helping Ken our church member who lost his leg.
A lot of times, you don't even have to say anything spiritual.
And I've actually learned that often times people don't need me to say anything. They just need me to shut up and be there.
My parents - Gift - Sick / Dying. My parents have a really great gift to be with people when they're near the end of their life. And in a lot of ways, that work is really hard, And often times it's very ordinary things that we do to serve people when they're at their most wonderful places. But I think no one would ever question the fact that when we are with people in those really challenging spots, That we're doing something really significant when it comes to being Jesus for those people. And I just want to encourage you, that if you feel uncomfortable in some he different ways of acting on God's behalf towards people I just think you can do it. If you open your heart to the possibility of God being there with you.
What if one of the ways God becomes 'Immanuel' to people is by sending you to be with them?
Of course there are times when God will have you do something spiritual. Like praying for people like speaking about God to people like preaching the gospel to people. And I just want to say that I believe that you are people who are capable of that.
I think sometimes I believe in people more than they believe in themselves. But it's just safe to assume that when your hunches to pray for somebody it's probably not bad. I don't think the devil spends a lot of time trying to convince us to pray for people.
More times than not, when somebody comes into contact with the presence of God, it's by coming into contact with somebody who is a carrier of the presence of God.
And sometimes, I'm the one that's hurting and I am relying on you to bring the presence of God to me.
A lot of people think that everything has to be just perfect in their life to be used by God. Which means they're gonna be waiting for a very long time.
What if one of the ways God becomes 'Immanuel' to people is by sending you to be with them?
“When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.” (Henri Nouwen)
There might be part in you that doesn't like that.
I'm a word of faith preacher - I have all the answers. People come to me to answers. I need to have the right council, the right wisdom. Or at least sometimes I think they do.
He's present with you.
And: He wants to be present in you for others.
Like we talked about last week: I find comfort in this: even though I'm in a lot of ways IN the struggle, doesn't mean that God can't use you in amazing ways to help somebody else.
(As they pass communion)
Spend minute - becoming aware - God With Us.
Feel - Being near you.
He abides in you / You - Him.
Where have I let hope die or then allow God to bring that hope to life.
Spend a minute remembering that God has been good to you.
And whatever it is that is in front of us now. Even when it feels like maybes far away, we come here and remember that he's always here with us even when it's hard to see
Advent Prayer - Elizabeth Lott - Pastor - New Orleans
O God, You are with us, Emmanuel, near as breath, present as Spirit, guiding us as Lord. You hear our sighs and groans and speak their language. When we are in chaos, you make sense of our wildest stirrings. You are the great Comforter. You are forever arriving, O God, at once beside us and ahead of us.
We long for the closeness and protection of your peace, the assurance of your hope, the lightness of your joy. We want to know you are near with love for all. Even when fear abounds, we celebrate the Advent promise of Christ as God with us.
O God, assure us of one thing: That in our laboring, we will discover joy. In our laboring, we will realize peace has been birthed in us. In our laboring, our love for ourselves and for each other will grow. And in our laboring, we will be overcome by the hope we carry that you truly are with us, near as breath, present as Spirit, guiding us as Lord.
We give our lives to you, O God. We line our steps up behind Jesus Christ. We follow the wind of the Holy Spirit to boldly live as we boldly follow. May it be so. Amen.