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Summary: God no longer comes near through a burning bush, tabernacle, prophet, or vision. He has come near through Jesus, who is God in the flesh, in order to reconcile us to him so that we can serve him and also carry the message of reconciliation to others.

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Have you every heard of Heavenly beans? Little Carried thought that this time of year

was for heavenly beans because people sing about it everywhere. The song, Silent Night,

that ends with the line, "sleep in heavenly beans." Was her favorite song. Carrie’s

brother corrected her. He said, "do you ever see beans at Christmas? Of course not!

That’s because it is no "heavenly beans." It is, "sleep in heavenly peas."

That is a commentary about how you can hear something over and over again and still not

get it. It seems in the last ten to fifteen years, there has been a surge of interest in Biblical

stories. Movies about Jesus and other Bible characters have been increasing. Most of

them just don’t get it. I used to say that people were more comfortable with Jesus’

divinity than his humanity. I perceive that this is beginning to shift. Many of the

portrayals of Jesus portray his humanity more than his divinity.

I believe that the greatest misunderstanding this time of year is not that Jesus was born on

December 25th, because he most likely was not. I don’t believe that the greatest

misunderstanding is that Christmas is an official Christian holiday. It is a human

tradition not a God-ordained holy day. I believe the greatest misunderstanding has to do

with the significance of who Jesus is. Let’s look at the announcement given to Joseph in

Matthew 1:18-25.

"Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: when His mother Mary had been betrothed

to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit.

And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned

to send her away secretly. But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord

appeared to him in a dream, saying, "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary

as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. "She will

bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their

sins." Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet:

"BEHOLD, THE VIRGIN SHALL BE WITH CHILD AND SHALL BEAR A SON,

AND THEY SHALL CALL HIS NAME IMMANUEL," which translated means, "GOD

WITH US." And Joseph awoke from his sleep and did as the angel of the Lord

commanded him, and took {Mary} as his wife, but kept her a virgin until she gave birth

to a Son; and he called His name Jesus."

Joseph thought that Mary must have been unfaithful. She was going to have a child, and

they were not married yet. An angel of the Lord tells Joseph not to be afraid to take Mary

as his wife. She had not been unfaithful. God was at work here and the child was of the

Holy Spirit. The text gives us two names to describe Jesus. The angel told Joseph that

his name was to be "Yeshua," which means savior or deliverer. Jesus was to save the

people from their sins.

What had the people’s sins done in the past? What did their lying, dishonesty, envy,

violence, exploitation, adultery, fornication, murder, bring them? What did their

choosing to ignore God’s will cause? In Israel’s history, sins led to droughts, enemy

attacks, hardship, and ultimately to capture and captivity by a foreign nation. Their sins

stood between them and the protection and blessing of God. Jesus came to save the

people from their sins. But he came to do more than just save the people from their sins.

Matthew quotes from Isaiah, "they shall call his name Immanuel," which means "God

with us." God with us. What is that all about?

God was "with" Adam and Eve in the garden. God used to walk in the garden with them.

Then they committed the first sin. They stopped walking with God. Their sin had come

between them and God. As a result, they were alienated from God.

But God had a plan. He didn’t leave things the way they were. Mankind multiplied and

filled the earth. Even though the continued to sin, God never gave up on them. God

made a promise to a man named Abraham. He called him from his home to go to a land

which he would show them. He told them that through his seed, all the nations of the

earth would be blessed. Abraham would have a descendant that would bring God’s

blessing on everyone. You and I would be able to have the blessing of God through him.

God "came near" to Israel at the base of Mount Sinai. His presence came and covered the

top of Mount Sinai. There he instructed the people to build him a sanctuary, a tabernacle.

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