Summary: Funeral message for 39-year-old who died of a brain tumor. Sermon based on Jesus’ name Emmanuel, showing that God is with us this season and during the loss.
Matthew 1:23 – Christmas Funeral: Emmanuel
I was told of an elderly lady who slipped on the steps after leaving church one day, and died soon after with a broken hip. Many people came to the family to offer their sympathies. Some were saying to the sorrowing husband, "God must have had a plan for this, so accept it." Another said, "It was God’s will and we must live by it." Still another said, "Somehow God planned this to test your faith!" And still another said, "There is a silver lining in every cloud – you will find God’s reason behind this eventually."
The preacher soon grew tired of these things he called “babblings”. And the 1st line he said at the funeral was this: “My God doesn’t push old ladies down flights of stairs.” He went on to say that he found it ridiculous to blame all bad things on God.
And with all compassion and sincerity I can muster, I have a hard time believing that God wanted Heather to die this way. I have a difficult time picturing God as a Father who actually delights in bringing pain and sorrow. I understand that over the years we have said, “There is a reason for this.” But I’m just not so sure now. Yes, I believe that God has a reason for everything He does, but I’m just not sure that this is God’s doing.
Now, I also understand the problems with this thought. It could lead down a road, bringing us to a place where we say, “Well, obviously, God is not in control. Clearly, if what just happened is not part of God’s plans, then He is not in control.” Well, I don’t want to go that far either. I don’t want to think that the world is out of His powers. But I’ve grown weary of people blaming God for horrible tragedies.
But then, the question is: where is God? I’ll tell you where God is. God is with us. That was the message of the very 1st Christmas so many years ago. An angel appeared to Joseph in a dream and said that Joseph’s fiance was to have a baby. Not just any baby – THE baby. The Son of God. And the angel said that he would be called Jesus. All this happened because of an 800-year-old prophecy that said that the Messiah would be called Emmanuel. Emmanuel is a combination of Hebrew words meaning, “God with us”. Jesus showing up on earth so long ago means that God is with us.
Emmanuel means that God took pity on our weaknesses and came and dwelt among us, so that we might feel and know that He was near us and was one of us. Emmanuel means that God is with us in all situations: pain, unemmployment, divorce, bankruptcy, poverty, illness, surgery, hurt, cancer, and yes, even death. Emmanuel means that even in such situations God surrounds us with His love, His presence, and His Spirit. Emmanuel means that even in such situations we are not left on our own to brood in our pain, hate, anger, fear, or hurt.
After all, look at the testimony of the Bible. Psalm 23, such a comfort at times like this, says, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.” That’s Emmanuel.
Matthew 28:20 says, “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” That’s Emmanuel.
Romans 8:38-39 says, “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” That’s Emmanuel.
Joseph McCabe said, “Who could love a God remote, when suffering is our lot? Our God is closer than our problems, for they are out there, to be faced; He is here, beside us, Emmanuel.”
You see, the Christmas season shows us that God is no stranger to our sufferings. God understands our pain. Even if we were to have all the answers, even if we could figure out these sweeping questions like “why does this happen?”, even if it could all be explained, I don’t think it would hurt any less.
So you can either focus on all the questions and come up empty and cold towards a seemingly heartless God, or you can reach out to the One who can sympathize with your loss. You may even waver between the 2 from time to time. But I encourage you to look past your questions, and pursue the One whose name means that He is with you.