Summary: The Christmas Conspiracy is about seeing the deeper significance of Christmas and finding the joy that can be ours. This series is rooted in the desire to experience the true meaning of Christmas.
Christmas Conspiracy/“Reclaim Christmas” Series
Give More Presence
Bruce B. Miller
Give More Presence
Some of you hate the holidays. You just want to get through them as emotionally unscathed as possible. Others are too busy to slow down and celebrate. We can so easily miss the deep significance of Christmas. We know the story, but its very familiarity dulls us to the life changing truth. And so not only do we miss Christmas, but worse we miss out on the power of Christmas in our lives.
The Christmas Conspiracy is about seeing the deeper significance of Christmas and finding the joy that can be ours. This series is rooted in the desire to experience the true meaning of Christmas. We are joining thousands of Christians in hundreds of Churches calling for a Christmas Conspiracy. Often the word “conspiracy” is used in a negative light, but we mean it in the positive sense of a group of Christ-followers willing to re-think traditional Christmas in light of Jesus coming to the world. The point of Christmas should be to celebrate Jesus. Last week we talked about celebrating Jesus by blessing others, meeting more needs. Today we are talking about celebrating Jesus by giving more presence, not the wrapped kind, but being present with another person. God gave us the gift of his presence out of incredible love. We too can show his love by giving the gift of our presence.
Presence is a huge theme through the whole Bible. In the Garden of Eden we enjoyed God’s presence as Adam and Eve walked and talked with God. But when they ate the fruit disobeying God’s one command, they lost his presence. Humanity was banished from God’s holy presence in the Garden. On our own we could never find the way back to paradise. We could never reopen the doors to the Garden to once again experience the life giving presence of God.
Since then God has reached back to us. God appeared to people such as Noah and Abraham. In Exodus God manifested his presence by a pillar of cloud and fire in the wilderness. The book of Exodus culminates in the coming of God to express his presence in the Tabernacle. Later he was present in the temple, especially the Holy of Holies.
But at Christmas something unprecedented happened. At Christmas, God came to earth. The Christmas child is God with us. He alone can reopen the doors to paradise. He alone can bring us back into God’s holy, safe, life giving presence. In a sense, “God with us” is the story of Scripture in summary. The key covenant statement of relationship, “I will be their God, and they will be my people,” is sometimes called the “Immanuel theme.”
Names are powerful. Many of you parents spent months searching for just the right name for your baby. As important as names are today, they were even more significant in ancient times. In Hebrew your name and existence were almost the same. Your name is who are you, your identity, your reputation. In the Bible, names are crucial in grasping a person’s significance. Today we will consider one of the names of Jesus that conveys an important promise to us.
Immanuel - Do you know where this name comes from? It’s from an ancient story. Immanuel taps into the deep, major theme of presence runs from Genesis to Revelation. In troubled times, true security and peace are found in Immanuel.
The origins of Immanuel come 700 years before the Christmas Baby was born. Open your Bible to Isaiah chapter 7, right in the middle of your Bible. Our God is Lord of history. He arranges events so that prophecies can have multiple fulfillments. The prophecy of Immanuel was fulfilled both partially in Isaiah’s day and fully by Jesus at Christmas.
Go back in time with me to Isaiah’s day. Under King David and the nation was united, but by Isaiah’s time has divided into two countries: Israel in the north and Judah in the south. In 735 B.C., Isaiah found himself thrust into the middle of an international political crisis. For almost a decade, the Assyrians, under Tiglath-Pileser III, had been expanding their empire. Syria and Israel formed an alliance against Judah. In this crisis God sent Isaiah to address Ahaz, the king of Judah. You need to know Ahaz is not a godly man. He does not want to hear the word from God. Isaiah gives the prophecy of Immanuel to Ahaz and the house of David.
A sign for Judah
Immanuel in Isaiah is a sign of both blessing and judgment. The most famous verse is Isaiah 7:14 where we find the prophecy, but we need to see it in its context. Let’s walk through the story. Pekah king of Israel and Rezin king of Syria had formed an alliance with Ephraim and were threatening to invade Judah. When Ahaz and his people heard of the alliance, they were scared to death, shaking like trees in the wind. At this point the Lord instructed the prophet Isaiah to assure Ahaz of God’s protection. Put yourself in Ahaz’ shoes. Humanly, in his fear, it makes total sense to Ahaz to form an alliance with Assyria. But God says he will protect Judah. Ahaz should trust in God, not Assyria. Through his prophet Isaiah, God said: