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December 16, 2010

God Is With Us (Immanuel) and Christmas

This morning there are several readings I'm reflecting upon:
Isaiah 7:10-16
Psalm 46:1 & Ps. 80:1-7, 16-18
Romans 1:1-7
Matthew 1:18-25

All of these readings have so much going on and, in no way, do I expect to reveal and expose all the wonderful layers and context in these passages. I only hope to help shed some meaningful light from these scriptures that'll help build up and encourage believers. Ultimately I hope, that from this, our hearts will be lifted to the Lord and be reminded that he loves us (oh how he loves us) and remember again, as the following passage reads, "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in in trouble" (Ps. 46:1, ESV).

(Let me start by quickly reflecting on Isaiah 7:10-16 and Matthew 1:18-25).
Both of these passages happen in the midst of chaotic times.  Isaiah 7 starts off by telling us that Rezin; the king of Syria and Pekah and Remaliah; king of Israel, went up to Jerusalem to Ahaz; king of Judah to wage war.

So needless to say, King Ahaz and his security people are shaking in their boots. Isaiah 7:2 says, "When the house of David was told (the news)...the heart of Ahaz and the heart of his people shook as trees of the forest before the wind." So Isaiah is sent to Ahaz to try comfort him and encourage him to trust in the  word he had from the Lord concerning the current threat.

After Isaiah's words to Ahaz from the Lord were over the Lord asks Ahaz to ask for a sign (Isa. 7:10). I guess I am not sure why the Lord asks Ahaz, but maybe it was to help encourage Ahaz that his word could be trusted and to look for the sign as a deposit for its assuredness. Anyway, Ahaz refuses to ask God for a sign because he thinks it's sort of testing God. The Lord responds to Ahaz with a heavy word and tells him the sign to look for of his rescue. "Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. (Here it is) Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel" (Isa. 7:14).

What a wacky sign huh? This great word and promise of the Lord came in the midst of chaotic times.

Let's jump all the way to Matthew 1:18-25, the birth of Jesus Christ. These words to us from Matthew also reveal some of the chaos that the wonderful birth of Jesus was shrouded in. Before Joseph and Mary got a chance to "know" each other (wink wink) Mary was found to be pregnant. What a heart breaker for Joseph! Scripture tells us that "...being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, (Joseph) resolved to divorce her quietly (Matt. 1:19). Though he was mad he must have been more madly in love with her to not want to shame her after the shame he must felt when he first heard the news of her pregnancy. Like usual, the word of the Lord comes his children in a crazy way and in a crazy time.

"The Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from his sins" (Matt. 1:20-21). The next lines say, "All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:

Behold, the virgin shall conceive and 
bear a son,
and they shall call his name 
Immanuel" 
(which means, God is with us).

Let me jump around again, but this time to our two passages from Psalm. The first, Ps. 46:1, reads, 
"God is our refuge and strength, 
a very present help in trouble.
The next, Ps. 80:3, reads, 
"Restore us, O God; 
let your face shine, that we may be
saved!"

The Christmas season is about a lot of things; Christmas carols, cookies, trees, joy, stockings, egg nog, shopping, presents, a special baby and all sorts of other things. These reading lead me to remember a promise and a special reality, that the Lord is with us. When days are chaotic or even full of sorrow the Lord will remedy the situation. The Lord remedies our chaos by moving into our neighbor, hence Jesus Christ, Blessed Immanuel, our Savior. So this is it...the hope we have for help is a promise. The Lord said he'd give us a sign, that sign was born through Mary and that son is present today and will come again. 

May you take comfort this holiday season as much as you can remembering the promise of the Lord. Remember his faithful and take comfort that, tough your days might be chaotic or full of heart break, the Lord is near and has given us Jesus to restore us and be a very present help in trouble.


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