Emmanuel, God With UsAuthor: Josué Mora Peña
Every year people around the world wait for the Christmas season. It is a time of joy, lights, decorating the Christmas tree, dinners, gifts, family reunions, parties, etc. Christians look forward to that occasion but we have something else in mind: the real meaning of Christmas—the birth of Jesus. And also every year we hope to know more about the Babe who was born in Bethlehem. On this sermon, we want to concentrate in one verse of the Bible Matthew 1:23, especially the last part which says, “ ..and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.”
In order to learn more about Jesus, the Savior of the world, we need to look at the context, like that say in the seminaries “a text without a context is just a pretext.” Only the Gospels of Matthew and Luke talk about the birth of Jesus. In Luke chapter 2:1-38 we find a more detailed story narrated by Doctor Luke. The Messiah was to be born in the family de David, who lived about 1,000 years before the Child of Bethlehem was born. God chose a young girl, a virgin, in the hills of Galilee. Her name was Mary. She was blessed.
It is believed that Luke got all his information directly from Mary. Matthew probably got it from Joseph. These two gospels make it clear that Jesus was going to be born out of a virgin. Mary went to see her kin Elizabeth (Luke 1:36-40) who in her old age was expecting a baby. She lived in Judea, about 100 miles from Nazareth where Mary lived. Elizabeth was already 6 month pregnant (see story in Luke 1:5-25). Mary stayed with her for three months (verse 56), then she returned to Nazareth. And guess what! Being three months pregnant, it was noticeable. Let’s elaborate for a while about the Savior of the world, Mary.
Halley’s Bible Handbook says, “When [Mary] returned to Nazareth, and Joseph learned of her condition, it must have filled him with ‘strange and agonizing perplexity.’ But he was a good man, and disposed to protect Mary’s name from what he supposed would be public disgrace or worse. Then the angel appeared to him, and explained.” According to Matthew 13:55-56, Mary had at least six more children besides Jesus.
Some people question about Jesus’ “brothers and sisters” mentioned in the passage above and Mark 6:3; John 7:3-5. Were they Mary’s own children or children of Joseph’s previous marriage? The Bible is very clear when it states that they were Mary’s children. This is the opinion of most of the Bible commentators. And it is substantiated by Luke 2:7 that says, “And she brought forth her firstborn son, ...” Why “firstborn” if there were no others? It is believed that Mary, even though she was also of tribe of Judah and lineage of David (Psalm 132:11, Luke 1:32 and Romans 1:3) went with Joseph to Bethlehem because Mary’s parents did not believe her story about the visit of the angel.
But this sermon has to do with “God being with us,” so we will concentrate in the sentence “God with us.” But first let us go to Isaiah 7:14 where is says, “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign: Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” This is the first of at least 47 quotations, most of them Messianic that Matthew takes from the Old Testament.
God with us means, God within us. Every person who has confessed his or her sins and asked Jesus to come into their lives is saved and God is always with us, not just from time to time, but always. God with us means that because of the Holy Spirit who dwells and lives in us He is always with us. The Bible tells us in First Corinthians 6:19 that our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit and He is there to stay. It is interesting to note that in the Old Testament the Spirit of God descended upon God’s people, like the prophets, the judges and other people who God used but once they accomplish their task, the Spirit departed from them. This was the case of Samson who did not know that God’s powerful Spirit was not with him anymore. He got ready to fight the Philistines not knowing that God was not with him anymore (see Judges Chapter 16, read this chapter).
In the New Testament, the Holy Spirit came upon the first Christians to stay with them. You and I have the Holy Spirit since we believed in Christ as our Lord and Savior (Ephesians 1.13; 4.30; 1 Thessalonians 5:19). That’s what Emmanuel means: that God is with you always, even when you don’t feel Him, God is with you. In the Christian life, we don’t live by feeling, we live by faith. And if you remember that at one time in your life you repented of your sins and invited Jesus into your heart, believe me, God is with you, even if you don’t believe it, even if you don’t like it, God said it and that settles it, . . . even Ripley’s column confirm it when he says “Believe it or not.”
So, if God is with you, start living like a child of God, walk like a prince; since you are the son or daughter of the King of kings and Lord of lords. Walk looking up, you are heaven bound, not earth bound. Stop complaining about how difficult life is and start fulfilling and living the abundant life that Jesus promised in John 10.10, “. . . I have come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” Are you living that kind of life? You can, because God is with you. Remember that this world is not your home, we’re only passing by. Look up to Jesus, He’s coming pretty soon. Look up from where your redemption comes (see Luke 21:28). Yes, God is with us.
Let us continue. Sometimes we don’t want to present the sermon as it should be: It is that dark side of the sermon which sometimes preachers don’t want to talk about, but we have to. Several preachers don’t even tell you about it. They present the sermon like a utopia, that imaginary place described in Sir Thomas Moro’s utopia, a place of ideal perfection, but the sermon will not be complete without telling it like it is. God with us is the bright side of the sermon. We like this. But the other side is: Are you with God? God’s love should be reciprocal. First John 4:19 says, “We love him, because he first loved us.” Because He loves you; you should love Him also. Because He saved you; you should talk about Him to others; because He is with you; you should be with Him also.
What does this means? It means that because He is with you, we should be in Him in obedience, reading His Book, talking to Him in prayer every day; attending church, learning about Him in Sunday school; Bible studies; getting involved in Christ’s church; supporting God’s ministries in your church with your prayers, attendance, your gifts and talents and with your offerings and tithes.
Many Christians today are facing many problems in life not because of God, but because our own fault. We want God’s benefits but not the responsibilities that come along with His blessings. We want God to be with us but we don’t want to be with Him. We like the idea of Jesus being our Savior but we don’t like the idea of Him being our Lord. In the New Testament the word Savior appears 16 times, the word Lord appears 609 times. This tells us that we need to be in Him as He is in us.
Let this New Year be different from the previous ones by allowing ourselves to be in God as He is in us.
Happy New Year
Josué Mora Peña