Summary: Celebrate the Birth of Jesus! 1) His birth is a sign that God is with us. 2) Our celebration is a sign that we are with God. (Adapted from sermon theme and parts by Walter Westphal)
There’s nothing like a good birthday party - especially when that party is for you. Your favourite cake and ice cream have been prepared, friends and family have been invited, and best of all the presents are all for you! Can you imagine what it would be like if millions of people celebrated your birthday? Wow! You’d never get done opening all the presents!
Do you know of anyone that has millions of people commemorate his birthday? Sure you do. Every year on December 25th, people from around the world celebrate the birth of Jesus. What makes Jesus’ birth so special that people from all walks of life commemorate it? Indeed why does God insist we celebrate the birth of Jesus? There are at least two reasons we want to celebrate Jesus’ birth: his birth is a sign that God is with us, and our celebration is a sign that we are with God.
Imagine your surprise if you were perusing birth announcements in the newspaper and saw a notice that read: “Bob and Betty invite you to celebrate the arrival of their son to be born in the year 2710.” An announcement for a birth that is to take place 700 years in the future? That was the kind of birth announcement the people of Judah received in our text. Although God hadn’t said exactly when this birth was going to happen, the people of Judah would know that it had happened because the child was to be born of a virgin. What’s more, he would be called Immanuel, which means, “God with us.” We know of course that this prophecy was fulfilled when the Son of God became man and was born of the Virgin Mary in Bethlehem.
But why did God make this birth announcement about Jesus at this specific time in history through the prophet Isaiah? The people of Judah, particularly, the people of Jerusalem needed to hear that God was with them. At this time Judah was led by King Ahaz who may have been one of the lousiest kings in David’s dynasty. Although his grandfather and father had been faithful followers of the true God, Ahaz made it his religious policy to follow the gods of whatever nation seemed to be the strongest. Like a careless driver who keeps switching lanes in order to get ahead without any regard for the safety of others or for the speed limits (Walter Westphal), Ahaz thought nothing of shoving aside the Lord’s altar to make room for one idol after another in the Lord’s temple. Ahaz even sacrificed his own children in fire to the god Molech.
None of this made Judah stronger of course; it actually made things worse. For example in one day of fighting, 120,000 soldiers of Judah were killed while another 200,000 people were taken captive (2 Chronicles 28:6). Now news had reached Jerusalem that the enemy was marching on that city intent on destroying it. It’s no wonder the hearts of King Ahaz and his people were shaken, as the trees of the forest are shaken by the wind (Isaiah 7:2). Would Ahaz now finally turn to the Lord for help? No. The prophet Isaiah found the king not on bended knee asking God’s forgiveness and help, but out inspecting the city’s water works in preparation for the upcoming siege. This was typical Ahaz; he’d much rather rely on his own strength and smarts than on God. Why, Ahaz had even sent off temple money to the king of Assyria to come to his rescue.
The same thing can happen to us can’t it? Instead of relying on our God to provide, we want to prove that we can do it ourselves. I’m not saying we should sit around and do nothing while expecting God to drop food in our laps. God wants us to work and through that he provides our needs. But as we toil away at our jobs it’s easy to think that it all depends on us. So we spend more overtime in the office than we do in prayer asking God for the things we need. Or we scour the internet for investing tips while seldom cracking open our Bibles for guidance on eternal matters. Like Ahaz we think that we know what’s best for us and don’t need God to instruct us.
So what message do you think Isaiah had for the wayward king? “You’re going down, Dude. You’ve cut God out of your life one too many times so now he’s going to cut you out of his.” No. Amazingly Isaiah reported: “…keep calm and don’t be afraid. Do not lose heart because of these two smoldering stubs of firewood—because of the fierce anger of Rezin and Aram and of the son of Remaliah. 5 Aram, Ephraim and Remaliah’s son have plotted your ruin...It will not take place, it will not happen...” (Isaiah 7:4, 5, 7).