This is Christmas: Immanuel (Matthew 1:23)

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About a year ago my family bought a fish tank. We have four fish because we have four daughters. The fish names are Sparkle, Grape, Queen Purple, and Star-fire. Since my daughters are young, my wife and I are the one who takes care of the fish. My wife cleans the tank about once a month and I feed the fish everyday. My job might sound like more work but in reality the once a month job is harder and dirtier.

The catch is, even though the fish see me every day; even though on regular schedule food is dropped in to sustain the fish’s life, they still don’t communicate with me. Never do I get a thank you or even a fin/fist bump. They swim away and hide. In fact, recently Star-fire died and I’m pretty sure it was because he had difficulty acclimating to our aquarium

To my fish, I am a deity. I’m too large and my movements are too grand for them to comprehend. My acts of care are viewed as cruelty to them. And the only way to change their perception of me is if… I too would become one of them – a fish.

The same is true between God and humanity. The world sinned and separated itself from God through rejecting His purposes. However, God continues to pursue His creation for reconciliation. Ultimately, redemption has occurred through the sending of Jesus Christ. God became one of us to save us.

Today’s message will examine the importance of God in Christ, named Immanuel.

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EXAMINE     This is Christmas: Immanuel              Matthew 1:23

Matthew 1:22-23 “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).”

In Matthew 1:22-23, the reference is to the prophet Isaiah 7:14. In Isaiah’s day, Israel (Northern Kingdom) was going to attack Judah (Southern Kingdom). Human conflict was frequent, government was corrupt, and religious fervor was hypocritical. The King of Judah, Ahaz, was tempted to make an alliance with another evil empire, Assyria (2Ki 16:1-9). Isaiah the prophet warned Ahaz to trust in God’s protection and not human powers.

The Lord promised a sign of His protection and power in a future coming son called Immanuel (Isa 7:14). The son is further prophesied “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this” (Isa 9:6-7).

Matthew’s Gospel was written to a Jewish audience. Last week we examined how the gospel, the Christmas story was a historical event with Matthew confirming the events through a long genealogical list and eyewitness testimony. Matthew also quotes or refers to the OT frequently – some 99x.

The point is that the Christmas story is a prophetic promise from over 700 years before Jesus’ birth. Matthew is reminding the Jews, and all of us, that God keeps His promises.

You can trust God. Maybe the circumstances in your life cause you to second guess if God is in control or even if he cares; the Christmas story reminds us that God is in control and He does care.

Immanuel (compound word ‘im = with; el = God): God with us

God With Us:

This name is clearly referencing Jesus’ deity. Jesus is both God and man. Jesus did not subtract His deity but added humanity, to have two natures. Jesus “is the image of the invisible God… [with] the fullness of God” (Col 1:15, 19).

If one doubts Jesus’ divinity then examine the eyewitness testimony.

  • Jesus’ parents: no parent calls child God
    • Mary nursed Jesus, changed diapers, clothed body, cared for coughs & colds.
      • But Mary still professed faith (ex Lk 1:47; Jn 2; Acts 1:14)
    • Joseph taught Jesus carpentry for how to swing a hammer and how not to swear when he missed the nail and hit his thumb. Joseph taught Jesus convictions, character, competencies, customs and as any parent moments of frustration, though Joseph’s were unique.
      • But Joseph still accepted angelic announcement and affirmed son’s identity.
    • Jesus’ disciples: no student calls teacher or their friend God
      • All disciples willingly live and die a martyr’s death for Jesus’ identity.
    • Jesus’ own testimony: no one in right mind claims divinity unless true. Liar, Lunatic, or Lord.
      • John 14:6 “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

à The Christmas story of the virgin birth and Jesus’ deity, if true, then it changes everything. Christmas becomes more than a day but a devotion for our lives. #ThisIsChristmasSPBCMD

God With Us:

God has a ‘withness’ to His relationship to His creation. He is both infinite but intimate. He is a Sovereign Creator and a Sustaining Lord. He is faithfully and frequently involved in the world and with His people. Christmas is not just God Most High but also God Most Nigh. #ThisIsChristmasSPBCMD

  • Creation shows God forming humanity with His own hands and personal breath/words.
    • The Fall (Gen 3) separated this oneness and withness.
  • Tabernacle shows God’s presence made relatable and tangible.
    • The catch is that God often spoke through fire, required sacrifices
  • Priests/Prophets/Kings show God’s words and warnings being revealed to His people.
    • The catch is that God was not present among/in all, it was vicarious.
  • Incarnation shows God is tangible for all; He is like us in every way yet w/o sin (Heb 4:13).
    • God as a baby shows not just visibility but vulnerability… even to point of murder and death!
    • Jesus’ whole entire purpose was to die; before the cross to Pilate Jesus says, “For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world” (John 18:37). Christmas reminds us that because Jesus was born to die we are now born to live [by grace through faith]. #ThisIsChristmasSPBCMD
    • Jesus took on the scars of humanity that we might receive the salvation of incarnated deity. #ThisIsChristmasSPBCMD

Illus: In 1966 a song “Eleanor Rigby” was recorded by Paul McCartney of The Beatles. The song gave the band a shift to how people viewed them as just young rockers, to be taking more serious in their music. The song hit a reality with the lines “All the lonely people; Where do they all come from?; All the lonely people; Where do they all belong?”

Christmas reminds us that we never have to be alone. He has come. He is here. His Spirit will never leave nor forsake those who have trusted in Him. Comfort and hope are available. Abandonment is impossible. Jesus Christ is our Immanuel. God is with us.

à Immanuel is about God not us. God does not live for our agenda. Immanuel does not mean God living in our presence but us living in God’s presence to pursue Him and find our pleasure & hope in Him.

– Faith is not like putting a Bible in your child’s stocking or decorating the tree with religious ornaments, or wrapping of a gift. Instead, faith is more innate as having the desire to give a gift and the devotion to give a gift that meaningfully matters to another person. Therefore, faith is about a relationship of passion and pursuit to know, listen, and commune with God.

à Faith in Immanuel provides strength. It is like a weighted punching bag that no matter how many times it gets hit, pushed or shoved it always returns. The reason is because there is a significant weight inside that causes it to stand strong. No matter the external pressure the internal presence of significance keeps it going. So too of the believer has an internal presence of Immanuel.

God With Us:

The name Immanuel was not just for an individual but for a people. The Christmas story includes a cast of characters; everyone from lowly shepherds to elite magi, from peasant teenagers Joseph & Mary to angelic hosts. The child would be called Jesus – Yahweh Saves – as a Savior for all nations of all people in the world.

Christmas was founded in a family unit. The gospel was planted among parents and was proclaimed across multi-generational and multi-ethnic communities.

God intends for Christmas to be with family.

You may not have or be near blood family but you can be with spiritual family through Jesus Christ. Celebrate Christmas and Immanuel by trusting in Jesus and connecting to His people, the church.

Jesus came to our residence, took our reproach, and now invites us to receive His Christmas gift. Don’t fool around shaking the box or leave it unwrapped. Open the gift of grace.

APPLY/THINK

  • Imagine Jesus standing in front of you holding a gift box ready to hand to you…
    • Will you receive it?
    • What do you want to be in the box?
  • Christmas miracles are possible. Not sure what you’re looking for but God is the answer. Psalm 37:4 “Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.”
  • Christmas meaning of Immanuel, God coming to us. But what are we allowing to distract or deter us from God being near us?
    • Wrong thing (sin)
    • Good thing (substitute)
    • à à Make this your gift back to Him to lay down at the cross.

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