Summary: The good news of Christmas is that God is with us.
When I was at L.M. Prince elementary school right here in Tucson, every year we had a Christmas pageant and as far as I remember, every single student in the school participated in that pageant. As the Christmas story was reenacted, the students did choral readings of the Christmas story directly from the King James Version of the Bible and sang songs like “O Come All Ye Faithful” and “Away in a Manger”. Today, I still remember those Scriptures word for word as a result of all the time we spent memorizing and reciting them.
Obviously that could no longer happen today. It’s no secret that Christianity and Christmas are increasingly under assault in our culture. Just this week, a nativity display that had marked Christmas for nearly 40 years had to be removed from outside a Dallas, North Carolina courthouse after a complaint from the Freedom from Religion Foundation. In another case, a nativity scene was removed from in front of city hall in Jay, Florida after a complaint from that same group. In both cases, the city declined to pursue legal fights because of the potential costs.
Certainly none of us are happy about the direction of our culture when it comes to the way it treats Christmas and to Christianity as a whole. But the question of how to respond to what is occurring leaves us with no easy answers.
The message this morning is going to take quite a different approach than I first intended. But a couple of blog posts I read this week got me to thinking about how the theme of God with us ought to impact how we deal with others, especially unbelievers, this time of year. When I think about the way that God came to be with a sinful world that rejected Him, it seems to me that we can learn some important lessons from His incarnation. So I’m praying that the message this morning will help all of us to make some practical applications from what we’ll learn.
This morning we’ll wrap our series on the “Good News of Christmas”. We’ve already seen that Christmas is good news because it means we can fear not. Christmas is proof of God’s sovereignty and His grace and when we humbly seek Him and join Him where He is already at work, God allows us to live a life that is free from fear.
We also saw that Christmas is good news because it reveals that there is a Savior. Because of Christmas God makes it possible for us to experience the salvation that we can’t possibly obtain on our own and be saved from the penalty, power and presence of sin.
The theme for this morning’s message comes from the angel’s message to Joseph recorded in Matthew 1.
But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, 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 their sins.” 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 with us).
(Matthew 1:20-23 ESV)
This is one of only three places in the Bible where we find the term “Immanuel”. We’ll look at the other two in just a moment.
Most of you have probably seen Immanuel spelled with an “I” – Immanuel or with an “E” – Emmanuel and wondered what the difference is:
• Immanuel is a transliteration of the Hebrew word:
“immanu” (“with us”) + “El” (God”) = “God with us”
• Emmanuel is a transliteration of the Greek “Emmanouel” which is merely the Greek transliteration of the Hebrew word.
So either spelling conveys the idea of “God with us.” Matthew confirms that meaning when, after quoting Isaiah 7:14 he explains to his readers that the name Immanuel means “God with us”.
I’m going to be relatively brief here this morning. First we’re going to go back to Isaiah’s prophecy that Matthew quotes here so we can better understand the significance of the idea that God is with us. Then I’m going to share a classic Paul Harvey piece that illustrates the importance of God with us much more eloquently than I ever could. And then we’ll wrap up by thinking about how what we’ve learned should impact the way we deal with others this time of year.
Take your Bibles and turn to Isaiah chapter 7. I’m not going to read the entire chapter, but if you have your Bibles handy, you’ll be able to follow along as I share what is going on here.