God is with us for Salvation

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Good Morning I would like to begin with Prayer

Lord God, May your holy word and the examination of your word reach us today, may we be so blessed that we would see you, Lord, revealed in scripture today,  In the name of the Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit, Amen

If you are like me and are a linear thinker you would like to know what the titles of things are. The titles of chapters in books, the titles of subsections, all manner of titles to provide clarity. So for those of you I will tell you what the title of my sermon is today… The Incarnation. Now that might seem to be a little obvious for the forth Sunday in Advent, during a service of lessons and carols but that is what I’m sticking with. I may not be the most original. But God coming in the flesh, the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ, taking on the humanly form, the Incarnation, well I don’t think that I need to paint it as anything else.

            It may not be an original title for sermon about the birth of Jesus Christ. But God coming as man in the scope of world religions is about the most unique and incredible “good news” ever known. We, as Christians, as followers of Christ, have a God that “loved the world so much that he gave His one and only son” …

I would like to walk you through the readings today and discuss the incredible gift of grace that we have… and have had through-out time of “God with us”

Creation – Genesis 1:1-5 – 27-31

The creation story read today was, of course in parts, the first part was the very first verses of the Bible, and we encounter creation as the first theme. That may seem obvious, but it is important for the understanding of the entire purpose of the Bible, the Bible is a book which the very first theme is “Who is responsible”

The next section read today is the creation of humanity. It starts with right away with Humanity created in God’s image, male and female. Blessed and given authority over the rest of creation. We are created – after - the other living things but we share in God’s responsibility for creation - by God granting it so. God surveys over all that He created and states that it was very good. The second theme for today is “God’s highest created creature purposed to share in the responsibility for the rest of creation”

Fall – Genesis 3:1-20

What I would like to share with you from my study of the passage on the Fall, is twofold. First the deception of the serpent is a call to individual reason. The serpent says in verse 4 “You will not surely die?” Directly confronting and challenging their trust God. Not in saying eat, when God said don’t eat, but in calling Eve to question the logic for obedience. Then Eve for her part responds following in reason with three aspects of temptation: good for food; a delight to the eyes; desirable to make one wise. What has happens in the Fall, is definitely a failure in obedience towards God. But I think something more specific. The Fall of humanity is when we place our understanding, our own reason above the obedience and trust in God. God responds by making a separation between Himself and humanity, no longer will we live in the garden with God strolling through in the cool of the evening; no longer will we have that intimate companionship with God… There is a divide between God and creation and that is created by the wilful disobedience of humanity trusting not in God but in personal rational.

Hope – Isaiah 7:10-16

In this section we have the prophetic moment of Hope. Isaiah like many of the Old Testament prophets is concerned with many things, but all factors can ultimately be boiled down into one key message: “Chosen people of God… get right with your creator”. In this passage Isaiah tells of how a king of Israel is promised by God told through Isaiah that a virgin will bear a son, called Immanuel which means “God with us”. In a time of historical uncertainty, a sign of hope from God, a message of assurance and responsibility will be that “God is with us”

Promise – Jeremiah 31:31-34

Here we have a peak forward, A look into the future. We first have the foundational understanding of the first covenant, the covenant with Abraham that brought Moses and the exodus from Egypt. We have a brief definition of covenant - whereby both parties are responsible for their part and the revealing that humanity broke their part of the covenant. But God is faithful to his people and promises a new covenant, one that will be written on their hearts. It is a covenant that declares that humanity will once again know God. And …in what new way will humanity know God? By their sins being forgiven and forgotten… That which separates us from God will be removed in the new promise of the new covenant.

Small Beginnings – Micah 5:2-4

In only 2 verses Micah says a whole lot. First it will be from an insignificant town, Bethlehem, “too little to be among the clans of Judah”. Second that the ruler is part of a divine plan, a plan set in the foundations of creation “from days of eternity”. Most importantly that His strength will “of the Lord” and it will be to the “ends of the earth”.  Micah prophesizes that from a humble location, a divine plan for the messiah who will be known to the ends of the earth.

God with us – Isaiah 40:1-11

The second Isaiah passage is set to instruct us - to make a path ready for the Lord. The Lord will be coming to save His people; will be a shepherd to His flock. There is mention of a cry from the wilderness and as we have seen in the previous weeks, John the Baptist is the last of prophets in the Old Testament fashion. John the Baptist clearly states that it is not He, but that that he has come to point to one greater then himself. John is making a path ready for the coming of the Christ. It also is message of unifying the sheep under one shepherd. As we see in verse 11 - The Jewish people spread out over many lands have a shepherd that with “His arm He will gather the lambs”

The Prince of Peace – Romans 1:1-7

We have in the introduction of the letter to the Romans a statement of purpose, the reason for the entire letter and what you will see also the reason for all of Matthew’s gospel. And some would say the main reason all of the New Testament. Which is that Jesus is the Messiah? The fulfillment of the promised covenant. Paul outlines the credentials of Jesus, the Christ. Promised by the prophets in the Holy Scriptures, born in the line of David, resurrected from the dead …God’s grace for all, Jesus Christ - God with us – Prince of Peace.

Matthew 1:18-25 – conception and Birth of Jesus

Finally we move the climax of the “lessons” in the lessons and carols. The birth of Jesus. Now the version that is used today is Matthew’s account. It is interesting to note that John and Mark do not include the nativity in their gospels accounts; John starts with a deep theological conversation with the beginning of time, God being the light and states Christ as the active agent in creation. Then moves to the beginning of Jesus’ adult ministry with John the Baptist as the one setting a path preparing the way for Jesus and then the baptism of Jesus, as Mark also does in his gospel account. Nor is this the account used on Christmas day or with Christmas pageants, when Luke’s account is used. Luke is the writer of details and speaks of the census that brings them to Bethlehem, of Mary’s visit by the Angel of the Lord, of busyness of the town and how they are left to stay in a stable, where the shepherd are visited by the angel of the Lord and the heavenly host which brings them to manger.

No, the gospel account by Matthew is very succinct of the nativity. Matthew’s purpose is different… and for lessons and carols, it is the most appropriate. Matthew’s purpose is simple; to prove to the Jews that Jesus is their Messiah. Matthew is a Jew and although writing to both Jew and Gentile, his entire gospel account is an effort of proof. Matthew uses more Old Testament references then any other gospel, and the first of the 47 scriptural references is found in this short 8 verse passage… the prophet Isaiah over

700 years ago. Matthew is firmly placing the event of Jesus birth in the history in two ways: Matthew chapter 1 verses 1-17 is a genealogical account with ties to David as anticipated in Jewish messiah expectation. 


This might to some seem a strange way to start a narrative of the greatest news ever -

Then immediately following the narrative of the birth of Jesus is the story of the visit by the magi, the wise men from a foreign land. This is another effort to ties the birth of Jesus to history, as the Magi’s error in visiting Herod first leads to the killing of the male babies in Bethlehem.

I will read the verses again and you can see for yourself how straight-forward the writing is.

-          READ 1:18-25 –

Matthew is striving to establish certain details, details for the understanding of Who Jesus is. Born to virgin,… Mary was not a young girl, but just past that stage, she was at the betrothal stage, although that is still very young by today’s standards, betrothed to Joseph, this meant basically - an engagement, typically of a year, and in Jewish culture that was more binding then our modern engagement. As you see when Joseph upon becoming aware of Mary’s pregnancy seeks to end their relationship with a quiet divorce. Joseph is identified as a righteous man, which meant that he observed the Jewish religious laws. But Joseph was also a kind, gentle man as he would naturally assume that Mary’s pregnancy was due to adultery, the punishment by law could have been stoning. Matthew is establishing Jesus’ legal lineage through Joseph to David, a human birth through Mary, while at the same time stating that she is a virgin as “she is found with child by the Holy Spirit”, thus providing the divine nature of Jesus. All these details are important to stating the identity and purpose of who Jesus is.

The climax of lesson is found in what the Angel of the Lord say to Joseph. What we are to understand is that: The child is of the Holy Spirit; To be called Jesus; He will save His people from their sins; this is the Fulfillment of the prophets and the direct restatement of Isaiah’s Old Testament text “Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and they shall name him Immanuel,” which means “God is with us.” It is these five things facts that changed everything. By Angelic intervention Joseph continues the betrothal regardless of pregnancy and cultural implications. He awoke and did what was instructed by the Angel of the Lord: stayed with Mary; kept her a virgin and named the baby Jesus.

All of Matthew’s gospel and particularly this passage… and I would venture to say the purpose of the entire Bible can be boiled down into two key points, Immanuel – God with us, the Incarnation, God becoming man, taking on human flesh and living amongst us – God so loved the world that he gave His only son… This is point of proof that Matthew is calling his Jewish brothers and sisters … and us… to understand.

And secondly …“He will save His people from their sins.” – Matthew does not explain this at all at this point, but plants the seed… puts the reason… the purpose for the Incarnation in the very first chapter of his gospel.

We have in the lessons today – God interaction … relationship with Humanity -  Creation – Fall – Hope – Promise – Small Beginnings – God with us – Prince of Peace – The Incarnation – We have over all of it  - that God is with us and came for our salvation!

So Brothers in sisters in Christ …as I prayed in the beginning of this sermon, I hope that you will see God - revealed in His holy scriptures today… Amen

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