************ Sermon on Matthew 1:22-23 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on December 25, 1998
Christmas Day - 1998
A Spanish artist was hired to paint the Last Supper. It was his goal to throw all the dignity of his art into the figure and face of the Lord Jesus; but he put on the table in the foreground some ornamental cups, the workmanship of which was exceedingly beautiful. When his friends came to see the picture on the easel, every one said, "What beautiful cups!" "Ah!" he said, "I have made a mistake: those cups draw the eyes of the viewer to themselves and away from the Lord." So he took up his brush, and blotted them from the canvas, so that the figure of Christ might be the chief object of attraction.
In our world today there is so much that competes for our attention at Christmas, so much that tries to draw our focus. On this Christmas morning we are reminded again that the chief object of our attraction should be the baby Jesus in the manger.
I The Birth of the Immanuel
A Who is the baby in the manger? Whose birth are we celebrating today? What shall we call Him?
Matthew tells us about the baby in the manger. So far we have learned that the baby in the manger is the son of David – the Messiah Who sits at God's right hand. He is the son of Abraham – in Whom all peoples on earth are blessed. He is Jesus – the Savior from sin. He is the eternal Son of God – conceived by the Spirit and born of the virgin Mary.
B Today, we learn that He is also the "Immanuel." "God with us."
Topic: SalvationThis is essentially the Christmas story – God reaching down to earth in the flesh of Christ. On Christmas Day we celebrate the birth of the "Immanuel." "God with us."
Subtopic: The Gift of God
A decade ago two sculptors decorated a new post office in a suburb of Cologne, West Germany. They fashioned two giant hands, each over two yards long, that seem to be grasping for each other but in vain. One hand, the higher hand, juts right out of the side of the building toward the second hand rising from the ground.
We do not know if the sculptors meant it this way, but to us they represent the hand of man stretched out for help and the hand, the almighty hand, of God, stretched out to deliver man from the pit into which he has fallen.
Jesus is the "Immanuel." "God with us." Do you realize what this means? Do you realize what this tells us. Think of it this way:
Subtopic: Incarnation of
In Jesus divine omnipotence moved in a human arm;
In Jesus divine wisdom was cradled in a human brain;
In Jesus divine love throbbed in a human heart;
In Jesus divine compassion glistened in a human eye;
In Jesus divine grace poured forth from human lips.
C When the only begotten Son of God was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary, the promise God made through Isaiah so many years before was finally fulfilled. Matthew says,
(Mt 1:22-23) All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: (23) "The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel" --which means, "God with us."
Let me explain this further. Through the prophet Isaiah, the LORD promised to protect Judah in the face of an invasion by Israel and Aram and Assyria. As a guarantee of this God told King Ahaz to ask for a sign. When Ahaz refused to ask for a sign, the LORD announced the birth of "Immanuel." The "Immanuel" was God's guarantee that God had not forgotten the line of David. The "Immanuel" shows that God could be trusted to keep His Word and His promises.
The baby born on Christmas Day, the baby lying in the manger, is the "Immanuel." He is "God with us."
D The fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah on Christmas Day does not mark the beginning of God being with His covenant people. Rather, it marks the climax of God being with His covenant people.
Remember an 80 year old Moses before the burning bush? At that time God gave Moses a great commission: to lead the Israelite slaves out of Egypt and into the land of Canaan.
Moses felt inadequate for such a task and said so: "Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?" (Ex 3:11).
And God said in reply, "I will be with you" (Ex 3:12).
And He was. While traveling in the wilderness, the children of Israel only had to lift their eyes forward and upward to see that the Lord indeed was with them, even as He promised. As we read in Exodus:
(Ex 13:21-22) By day the LORD went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light ... (22) Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people.
"I will be with you."
What a beautiful, comforting, sustaining promise!
E Today is Christmas Day. Today we celebrate the fulfillment of God's promise to be with His people. Today we celebrate the birth of the "Immanuel"; today we celebrate the birth of "God with us."
On this Christmas Day, congregation, I want you to take one thought home: that God is with us, that the "Immanuel" has been born. The meaning of Christmas is that God is now with us in the person of Jesus Christ.
II The Meaning of "God With Us"
A What does it mean for you and me that the "Immanuel" has been born?
First, it means salvation. That's what the angel said to Joseph. He said, "give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins" (Mt 1:21). The "Immanuel" is the Savior.
In fact, only the "Immanuel" can be the Savior. Our Mediator and Deliverer must be truly human (He must be "with us"), yet He must also be true God (He must be "God with us") in order to save us from our sins (Heidelberg Catechism, Q & A 15). He must be man because it is man who has sinned and it is man who must pay for sin. He must be God for only God can bear the weight of God's anger against sin (Heidelberg Catechism, Q & A 16,17).
The birth of the "Immanuel" means salvation from sin for everyone who believes (Rom 1:16), for everyone who opens their heart to Jesus.
Topic: Christ"Immanuel" means salvation.
Subtopic: Incarnation of
Title: The Work of Christmas
When the song of the angels is silent
When the star in the sky is gone
When the kings and princes are home
When the shepherds are again tending their sheep
When the manger is darkened and still
The work of Christmas begins --
To find the lost
To heal the broken
To feed the hungry
To rebuild the nations
To bring peace among people
To befriend the lonely
To release the prisoner
To make music in the heart.
B Second, the birth of the "Immanuel" means that God will not leave, forsake, or fail His people. The name "Immanuel" is a watchword among God's people; it is a word of hope. No matter how desperate conditions become we know that God is with us.
Take any situation that we might suffer through: unemployment, death, divorce, bankruptcy, poverty, illness, surgery, pain, hurt. "Immanuel" means that God is with us even in such situations. "Immanuel" means that even in such situations God surrounds us with His love, His presence, and His Spirit. "Immanuel" means that even in such situations we are not left on our own in our pain, hate, anger, fear, or hurt.
Countless Christians around the world have derived great comfort from how the Apostle Paul puts this in Romans 8:
(Rom 8:38-39) For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, (39) neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.Why not? Because the "Immanuel" is born; because God is with us in the person of Jesus Christ.
C Third, the birth of the "Immanuel" means we have no reason for fear. If God is for us and with us, who can be against us, asks Paul (Rom 8:31)? Just before Israel fought the inhabitants of Canaan to take possession of the land, the Lord gave the people a comforting word of assurance: "Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them ..." Why not? "For the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you" (Deut 31:6).
Because of God's presence in their lives God's people can and should always be strong and of good courage. Let's say that Saddam Hussein is successful in making a biological bomb and uses it to attack our land. Or, let's say President Bill Clinton were to resign because of his impeachment and we end up with President Al Gore and Vice-President Dianne Feinstein. Or, let's say the stock market were to crash and drop 4000 or more points next week. Or, let's say a precious son or daughter tells you they have AIDS or leukemia. None of this should fill us with unspeakable dread and terror. Why not? Because we rest secure in the thought that God is with us, that the "Immanuel" has been born. We know that no evil is so great that the presence of God in our lives is not able to overcome it.
D Fourth, the birth of the "Immanuel" means our God is sympathetic with us. When God took on our flesh, when He entered time and space, He became fully one with us. He didn't come to keep us from suffering; He came to suffer as we must suffer. He didn't come to keep us from being afraid; He came to be afraid as we are afraid. He didn't come to keep us from dying; He came to die as we must die. He didn't come to keep us from being tempted; He came to be tempted as we are tempted. About this the book of Hebrews says, "we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses". Therefore, we can "approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we will receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need" (Heb 4:15-16).
"Immanuel." "God with us." That is God's promise to the church of all ages. And on Christmas Day that promise was fulfilled.
The promise to be with us is repeated a number of times by Christ. "I will ask the Father," said Jesus, "and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever -- the Spirit of truth" (John 14:16,17a). Jesus' parting promise to the church, just before His ascension, was "surely I will be with you always, to the very end of the age" (Mt 28:20). And, He is: in His divinity, majesty, grace, and Spirit He is not absent from us for even a moment (Heidelberg Catechism, Q & A 47).
"Immanuel." "God with us." This promise of God was fulfilled on Christmas Day. And, there will come a day when it will be fulfilled even more fully than it was at Christmas. On that day, the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, will come down out of heaven from God. On that day,
(Rev 21:3) ... the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God."Immanuel." "God with us." That's the message of Christmas. That's also our hope for the future life.
"Immanuel." "God with us." This is the closing wish of Scripture: "The ... Lord Jesus be with God's people. Amen" (Rev 22:21).
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