Immanuel - God with us, the challenge who brings freedom

Christmas 2021  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  17:46
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Christmas Eve Welcome
D: Videos / Bethlehem Video
Sermon intro
Social Media Nativity
Main Preaching Intention I believe the congregation will see the challenge of Immanuel, God with us and understand that just as this sign was a challenge to trust God in the days of Isaiah; was a challenge to Joseph and Mary so to the challenge applies to us today – will we embrace the freedom offered.
Christmas Eve 2011 Matthew 1:18-25
Scene 1: Joseph and Mary - The Social Media Christmas clip.
Immanuel God with us!
For Joseph and Mary the incarnation opened a range of emotions.
Did you pick up on some of those?
Confusion, fear, hope and an enormous challenge.
In their day Mary being pregnant wasn’t acceptable.
In fact if Joseph made a scene and denied he was responsible there was the real possibility that Mary would face death by stoning.
Engagement in those times was considered a binding arrangement.
Which could only be broken by formal divorce.
Matthew’s gospel tells us that Joseph didn’t want to expose Mary to such public disgrace and the risk that his denial of responsibility could result in Mary’s execution at the hands of an angry community.
So he wanted to arrange to end the agreement of betrothal quietly.
That way Mary could quietly depart the scene and be safe.
To agree to take Mary as his wife was the only other option, an option that would be to admit that the child was his.
And he knew that wasn’t true!
To say the angel told me the baby is conceived of the Holy Spirit well!!!
Did you notice the response of Joseph’s friends?
They blamed him.
Did you notice what happened when he said an angel told him the child was conceived of the Holy Spirit?
23 people unfriended Joseph
They thought he was either crazy, a fool for taking on an unfaithful wife before the marriage was even consummated or he was responsible and couldn’t admit it.
This young couple faced an enormous challenge, to believe God’s promise.
And to risk everything in so doing!
Immanuel means God with us.
The challenge of trusting God and finding freedom.
Scene 2: The original use of the term Immanuel Isaiah 7 & 8.
Approximately 734 years earlier the word Immanuel had been used to speak of God’s promise to the nation of Judah.
It spoke then of the challenge of trusting God and finding salvation.
King Ahaz was facing an invasion from the combined forces of Syria and the northern tribes of Israel.
He was trying to work things out himself – perhaps the rising Assyrian king could help him, for a price.
Or maybe Egypt!
The prophet Isaiah called for King Ahaz and the people to trust in God for salvation from Syria and the northern tribes of Israel.
God was willing to save them, they needed to trust in him alone, but they didn’t.
Ahaz refused to take the challenge that God placed before him.
Ask me for a sign God said, anything, make it as hard as you like and I will deliver.
But Ahaz refused to take God at his word and used the excuse that he would not dare to test God.
Not a very wise move so in Isaiah 7:14-16 God gives a sign.
Isaiah 7:14–16 NLT
14 All right then, the Lord himself will give you the sign. Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God is with us’). 15 By the time this child is old enough to choose what is right and reject what is wrong, he will be eating yogurt and honey. 16 For before the child is that old, the lands of the two kings you fear so much will both be deserted.
We simply don’t know for sure how this prophecy was immediately fulfilled at that time, but it was certainly intended for some sort of immediate effect.
The best explanation is that the child to be born is a royal heir and that his mother was about to be married when Isaiah spoke these words[1].
The point for Isaiah and King Ahaz was that the sign of Immanuel had to do with the imminent birth of a child.
Born to a mother known to King Ahaz and Isaiah.
Possibly a wife of the King and it was common for the mother in those days to name the child.
This child signified God’s presence with his people during the turbulent years of the Assyrian invasions that were soon to engulf the kingdom of Judah.
This child symbolized the common understanding of the people in Old Testament times that God was present with his people, guiding their destiny and protecting them from danger.[2]
Just as the prophecy in verses 15 and 16 said within 2 or 3 years, the age of understanding of right and wrong for a child, Syria was completely wiped out by the Assyrian Army.
God used the sign of a child to challenge King Ahaz to trust in him alone and find salvation.
But because Ahaz had not accepted God’s challenge, in time Judah also fell.
Scene 3: The peace child
In Don Richardson’s best-selling book, Peace Child, he tells of going, accompanied by his wife Carol and seventeen-month-old child, to the Sawi, a headhunting tribe in Dutch New Guinea, now Irian Jyria the western half of the Island of New Guinea.
There life was brutal and savage.
The tribesmen considered headhunting, cannibalism, and treachery as virtues.
As this tribe heard the story of the Gospel, they considered Judas—not Jesus—the hero, and Don almost despaired of ever reaching them.
At last, the warfare and barbarism between the Sawi and their neighbouring tribes grew so intense that the Richardson’s decided to pack their bags and leave.
But when the Sawi heard of it, they were deeply disturbed.
They had come to love and trust the Richardson’s.
To prevent their leaving, the Sawi met in a special session and decided to make peace.
The next day as Don watched with mounting curiosity, the peace ritual began.
Young children from the warring villages were to be exchanged, and as long as any of those children were alive, the peace would continue.
It was an anguishing ritual, for every mother feared her child would be taken.
But after a period of emotional indecision, the chief himself grabbed his only son and rushed toward the enemy tribe, literally giving the tribe to his enemies.
In return, he received a son from the other side.
Peace descended across the mountains.
As Don pondered the significance of the ceremony, he realized there was a powerful Redemptive Analogy.
Shortly afterward, gathering the elders together, he told them how God the Heavenly Father sent Jesus to earth as His Peace Child to make peace between God and man.
It was a lesson they understood and embraced at last.*[3]
The challenge of salvation through Immanuel God with us accepted by a people who understood the cost of freedom.
Scene 4: The Gospel of Matthew
In Matthew’s gospel a challenge is laid out for the people of Israel.
“Here is proof”
Matthew claims the prophecy of Isaiah all those years ago for Jesus.
Jesus is Immanuel - God incarnate.
Actually God with us in the flesh.
The fulfilment of Isaiah’s prophecy.
This time literally a child born of a virgin.
Conceived of the Holy Spirit so as to be free from the inherited sin of a human father.
The challenge to the people to whom Matthew wrote was to accept that God was actually with them in the flesh, their Messiah had arrived.
The whole Gospel of Matthew serves that purpose, to convince Israel that Jesus is the Messiah.
He is the one who fulfils all the prophecies about a coming Messiah who will free his people from their sins.
He is the one who will literally bring salvation for those who trust God’s challenge.
Scene 5: Modern application
This child raises a question.
In who will we trust?
Are we more like King Ahaz?
Not willing to accept God’s challenge.
Wanting to do things our own way.
Not willing to accept that there is nothing that we can do to save ourselves; that we must rely totally on God and his work.
Or are we more like Joseph and Mary, will we accept God’s promise and trust in him alone
Being misunderstood is always painful, particularly when all the circumstantial evidence stacks up against you.
Young, unmarried, and pregnant in a society that highly valued sexual purity and virginity, Mary surely was among the most misunderstood of women.
Mary’s response to the angel’s announcement to her must be seen in light of this tremendously high personal cost (Luke 1:38).
Luke 1:38 NLT
38 Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.” And then the angel left her.
She made a monumental declaration of faith.
God asked Mary to bear the shame of pregnancy out of wedlock with only the knowledge of the truth as her strength—the truth that she was in fact a virgin despite all appearances.
Mary accepted God’s Word that by His power alone the Holy Child would be planted inside her body, receiving Him in faith and giving witness to His presence.[4]
Will we accept the challenge of the ultimate peace child?
Immanuel God with us – the one who brings freedom for all who will accept him.
[1] Watts, J. D. W. (2005). Vol. 24: Word Biblical Commentary : Isaiah 1-33 (Revised Edition). Word Biblical Commentary (137). Nashville: Thomas Nelson, Inc. [2] Achtemeier, P. J., Harper & Row, P., & Society of Biblical Literature. (1985). Harper's Bible dictionary (1st ed.) (419). San Francisco: Harper & Row. * Don Richardson, Peace Child, (Regal Publishers, 1975). [3] Morgan, R. J. (2000). Nelson's complete book of stories, illustrations, and quotes(electronic ed.) (483–484). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers. [4] Thomas Nelson, I. (1997). Woman's study Bible . Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
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