Here’s the problem, we too often feel as if God is NOT with us. We feel abandoned. For most people, the existence of God is really the question. Most people have some concept of God. I have too many funerals to not believe that. There is a sense of the divine. The question is not whether or not there is a god. The question is, does this God know me? Does He care? Am I worthy? The question is a personal relationship with God. Most people innately know there is a God somewhere, a remote God, but to say God with us, or God with me, is quite another thing indeed. So God sent a baby, a crying baby. Welcome Immanuel. God is here.
I’m making up the crying bit. I'm assuming a screaming kid is part of the deal. Jesus was a baby born in the normal way. He was a baby who soiled himself, spit up, and cried when He was hungry; He could do nothing for himself. He grasped fingers held out to Him. He could only communicate at first by crying. Jesus was a normal, human baby.
In history, God had gotten the attention of the people before. The people of God lost sight of God, down in Egypt as slaves for 100’s of years, so God raised up Moses, he held back the waters of the Red Sea, and they walked across on dry ground. And then in the wilderness they grumbled, and they said, we never had it so good back in Egypt, food was plentiful. What happened to God? He was still there, but the people could not see him.
During the period of the judges, the people only seem to be able to see God for little bits at a time, a crisis comes, a judge is raised up, the people rally under the banner of God, they worship and praise the Lord and life has never been so good, but soon they fall back into old patterns, Leaderless and vulnerable, they forget the ways ofthe Lord. The people were threatened from within, and from without. Where is God? And every 40-80 years God raised up another leader, a Gideon, a Samson, a Deborah, and the lens is focused on God once again, and stability and purpose is found.
Saul, the first King is a mixed bag. He is known as a really bad king, but that is not entirely true. There are moments he knows God, understands God, worships God. But how quickly he abandons God, and an evil spirit overtakes him when he hurls a spear at the young David. And the people ask, where is God?
When David sinned, God sent a prophet to tell him God knew what happened. David repented. The cry of the psalmist over and over again, “why is your way hidden from me.” “Why have you abandoned me?” “I am at my wit’s end, I have lost control, the boat is going to sink.” The message of the prophet Amos, "come back to God and live, return to the Lord." For little bits and pieces, a glimmer of God is found, but then sin overtakes the people, and God is lost from sight.
Between the recorded history of the old testament, and the unfolding drama of the new testament, there is about 400 years. The Romans take over the land of Israel. To most people God is a glimmer, the ancient stories keep hope alive, for some. Is God big enough? Will God give the people of Israel back their land, their home, their right to self-determination as a people?
Off in a remote corner of the country, it began as a small rumble, very quietly. An everyday event, a young couple is engaged and the young girl, Mary and Joseph, a scandal brews, for the young girl is pregnant. At first Joseph thinks he is in charge of damage control, he wants to quietly divorce her. He could have demanded she be stoned to death. But the Lord, through an angel, intervenes and instructs Joseph to take Mary as his wife. And the child is a child of promise: “you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” Then Matthew sees fit to pause in the middle of the story to make at clear what the birth of Jesus Christ means. Matthew does not leave it up to us to read between the lines, but he tells us exactly what it means: God with us.
In your darkest hour, is there any greater news: God with us. A couple of days ago I had the privilege of calling a person to say some of us had found a solution to help him out of a jam, and I could hear the sigh of relief, “That’s really good news, oh man, God is good. Wow.” And maybe he even had a tear, I don’t know. His name shall be called Immanuel, which means, “God with us.”
The news of the presence of God starts out as a ripple. Joseph wants to quietly control the damage. An angel appears to Joseph in a dream. In simple obedience, Joseph obeys. God is with us. Baby Jesus is born, a miraculous conception, the Son of God, born as a normal human baby. Jesus is so incredibly normal, in later it is said of Jesus, “Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son, and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us? “ (Mk. 6:3). God is with us.
What started as a ripple, is spread through-out the gospels, and the ripple is still growing. How do people come to know Christ? We come to know and appreciate his presence. God with us. To know that God cares for me personally, that he is with me, that he knows me. The problem for most people is not to believe if there is a God or not, that matter is already settled, the problem is we feel abandoned by God, lost, like God forgot about us, or we are not good enough. "God is with us" is the greatest promise of the Bible because it fulfills our greatest need. God is not distant, but he came as a baby, a normal baby that cried and spit-up. Perhaps the most beautiful sound of Christmas is that of a crying baby. Maybe tomorrow evening at the Live Nativity, rather than piping in Christmas music, we should arrange to have the sound of a crying baby. Imagine, God Almighty, creator of the heavens and earth, sustainer of the universe, directing the comings and goings of nations, taking the form of a crying baby. God is wild. God is with us.
Do you need the message of God’s presence. He came for you. If you feel abandoned that doesn’t mean its true, its your feelings. The Lord Jesus came for you. If you feel hopeless it isn’t true, hope comes from the Lord.
I want to take just a few moments and look at this wonderful Immanuel promise of God’s presence, “God with us.” We can understand the meaning of “God with us” when we understand God’s solution: that there is no greater blessing a human can know than to have “God with us.” Three stages of progression:
1. “God with us” means: He is among us so that we can know about Him. John 1:14,18. He is here. God is not among us as a good idea or a theory or an admonition to think positively. God is here. He is among us. He sent us Jesus Christ to be the present living truth. "I have come" Jesus says over and over again.
2. “God with us” means: He is for us: He gave His own life to save us. Matthew 20:28. As a kid I was not a great athlete, I hated when teams were chosen by having the two captains select their team one at a time, back and forth, and I really was near the bottom. With the Lord, he is on everyone’s side. The Lord Jesus Christ did not die for a few, he did not come for select people. The Lord came for all and he died for the forgiveness of your sins. Romans 3:22-25a. God with us. He is on our side.
3. “God with us” means: He will empower us to serve Him until He returns Matthew 28:16-20. God has commissioned us to do his work on earth. For those who have served the Lord for a long time, you know what it is for the right words, the right pieces to come together. It’s the Lord. There are no coincidences, it’s the Lord. By his power, by his strength, by his direction.
This Christmas, my blessing upon you, is for God to be with you. The Lord is here. He is on your side, he died for your sins, and he is empowering you to serve him and do his work. Through-out history the Lord has shown himself through the spectacular, as amazing as the parting of the Red Sea, but perhaps the greatest revelation of God almighty, is the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ as a crying baby. Amen.