Jesus as Immanuel

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Advent 2018  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  11:19
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<There was an issue with the Proclaim Remote, so the sermon transcript and the pre-written sermon text will differ greatly.> The Hebrew text in Isaiah 7, uses the phrase "God _is_ with us", and the Greek text in Matthew 1, uses "God with us". In times when our faith is challenged, it can be difficult to remember "God with us", yet it can be a source of comfort to remember that "God _is_ with us." (Oh, and don't worry, it isn't as mind-numbing an idea, as a depiction of the angel appearing to Joseph in the stained glass shown duirng the sermon.

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God is with us

A little about my own faith today:
I struggle with the fact that our worship is based on historical events from over 2,000 years ago. In our brains, we know that we can’t meet today’s problems with yesterday’s thinking. Yet in our faith, we look back 2,000 years for inspiration on how to live today. In some ways, it just doesn’t make sense to me.

The power of history

Now, I’m not going to say that there’s no sense in knowing our history. We most certainly need to know about our past. We need to right the wrongs that we’ve done — as individuals and peoples — as nations — and as a collective in the world.
And if we look around today, I’d have to say, that historically there are some quite scary things going on. The American stock market is nearing trouble that we’ve not seen in quite a while — and that won’t be good for any of us. Not only in the U.S., but elsewhere as well, nations are becoming more insular again. After years of striving to bring down barriers — real, and economic — people are working to build them back up. This does not seem to be good news.
Knowing our history allows us to see what is happening in the world today, remember the signs of what happened in the past, and help us determine if we really want to go there again — or not.


I know we read from Matthew this morning, but in order to understand Matthew, we need to better understand Isaiah.
Cory Driver, Adjunct Professor in Rabat, Morocco has this to say:
In Isaiah 7, the kingdom of Judah was under attack by the northern kingdom of Israel and the allied kingdom of Aram. Isaiah and his eldest son went to the king of Judah and told him to request any sign of his choosing that things would work out for the southern kingdom. King Ahaz refused to choose a sign, so God said that a specific young woman soon would conceive and give birth to a child. … The woman in Isaiah’s prophecy would name the child Immanuel, which means “God is with us” in Hebrew.
The reading we heard from Matthew, translates the Greek to be the same as the Hebrew — God is with us.
The “is” is actually missing in the Greek though. The Greek is closer to: “God with us”.
And we’ve based all sorts of ideas about God, and Jesus off of that notion in the Greek.
Now, before you look about as excited as this depiction of Joseph being addressed by the angel, just bear with me about the importance of the word “is”
“God with us” — for me at least — implies that God is right here, walking, talking, being present. At times, I know that to be true. I know that — at times — I have a sense of God [being] with me.
“God is with us” — can certainly encompass that notion of God being right here, present, walking, talking, being part of my world — it can also mean something else:
It reminds me of this from Romans 8:31
Romans 8:31 NRSV
What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us?
While they are certainly different in the Greek, there is something about “God is with us” that runs together with “God is for us” — God is with us — cheering us on, supporting us, caring for us — even if God is not physically with us.

God [is] with us

And here is where I think we get into a bit of trouble theologically, historically, and maybe even spiritually.
We are certainly looking for Jesus to come again — it looks like we might need him to come again soon at points.
But yet, I wonder if we miss the fact that Jesus is with us, even if we don’t feel his presence right next to us — that is, in the sense that Jesus is supporting us, caring for us, cheering us on — in those difficult moments in life.
Christmas — like probably any festival or holiday — isn’t always easy. We want to be joyful, and celebrate. Yet, honestly, the weight of the world on our shoulders can bring us down.
That is when the “is” becomes even more important.
The babe that will be born soon is not just God walking on Earth a couple of thousand years ago — that babe is a sign that God is with us even in the difficult moments of life — cheering us on, supporting us, caring for us — even when we don’t necessarily see him.
As we get ready to celebrate the birth of Jesus, may we not only see Jesus in the people around us, but may we also know deep within our souls that our God is with us — for there is no greater gift to receive this Christmas than the peace that comes from knowing God is with us. Thanks be to God.
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