Summary: Jesus Christ is Emmanuel, God with us, the greatest gift we could ever receive because he has come to save us from our sins. A sermon for Christmas day.
“O come, let us adore him, O come, let us adore him, O come, let us adore him, Christ the Lord!”
“Joy to the world, the Lord is come!”
Merry Christmas, everyone! It is such a joy to be here with you all today. There is no better way to celebrate Christmas than right here in Christ’s church, with Christ’s people! As nice as giving and receiving gifts is; as nice as a fancy meal with family and friends can be; as fun as a visit from Santa is, those things have nothing on this. There is no better way to celebrate Christmas than to worship our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!
It’s so easy at Christmas to forget that worship is true celebration of the birth of Christ the Lord. It’s so easy to forget which GIFT is important at Christmas-time. It’s kind of like watching a little toddler on Christmas morning. My nephew is a good example. Last year was his first Christmas, and everybody in the family was so excited for this monumental occasion. We all carefully shopped for the “perfect gift” for this newest addition to the family. And when Christmas rolled around, we were all excited to see little Bryce open his gifts. He ripped open the first gift like at little boy would. Then, he pulled the toy out, looked at it, dropped it on the floor and began to play with the wrapping paper. The same thing happened with the next gift, and the next.
Finally, there were just a few gifts left, and my sister put in front of Bryce what we were sure would be a great hit. We were certain that he would want to play with this toy. Again, Bryce ripped the paper off the paper. Some of the family helped open the box and pulled the toy out. Bryce’s face just lit up! He began to fidget with the pieces and push the buttons. Success! He seemed to really enjoy this toy. But, in only a few minutes Bryce crawled away from his new toy, and into the box it had come in! You know how children are; even with bright shiny toys nearby, it’s more fun to play fort in the box, or to throw paper wads at your siblings. It’s so humorous and yet hard to believe at the same time.
Yet, as God’s children, we have been given the most awesome gift that could ever be given. It's gorgeous from every perspective. It's a gift of such grandeur that it's hard to wrap words around it and explain it. It's beautiful from every vista. It's the gift that every human being needs. It's a gift that in all of your work and all of your effort and all of your achievement you could have never earned; you could have never deserved; you could have never achieved. It is absolutely, without question the gift of gifts. It’s what we are here celebrating today. It's the gift of the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, it’s the gift of salvation that comes through him. But even knowing that, I am deeply persuaded that, even in the face of this gift, there are many who are content to just “play in the box.”
My friends, the birth we celebrate today is indeed the greatest gift that has ever been given, and it is a gift we all need. It’s easy to be content sitting around the Christmas tree or eating a holiday ham, but these are empty gifts compared to the salvation that comes in Jesus Christ. The scripture passage we heard this morning describes the events leading up to and including Jesus’ birth. If you remember, when the angel appeared to Joseph in his dream and explained Mary’s unexpected pregnancy, the messenger told Joseph, “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” Whether you believe in God or not, Jesus came to save, and we all need saving from something!
After the angel has visited Joseph in his dream, Matthew comments about the message the angel delivered. He says, “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: ‘The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Emmanuel’—which means, ‘God with us.’” These words are Matthew’s editorial comment on the story, and Matthew is quoting the prophet Isaiah. When Isaiah penned his prophecy about a virgin conceiving and bearing a child, that was probably not understood by Isaiah to be about a child to be born 700 years in the future, but instead about Isaiah’s own son.
You see, at the time that Isaiah made this prophecy about a virgin conceiving and bearing a child, he was living within the walls of Jerusalem. Beyond the walls, two armies had laid siege to the city. The people of Jerusalem were terrified. But God gave Isaiah a word of hope for the people and their leader, King Ahaz. God was with them; Judah would be spared, and the armies would be defeated by their foes, the Assyrians. God even gave Ahaz a sign that this would pass, that “the young woman would conceive and bear a son, and call him Emmanuel.” And Emmanuel was the name given to Isaiah’s own son, because his birth and life were a reminder of God’s promise to be with, and to deliver, God’s people.