Summary: Emmanuel...God is close to us. What we really want is to feel that He is close to us.

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Matthew 1:18-25

iWant God Close To Me

Woodlawn Baptist Church

December 23, 2007

Christmas is certainly about a lot of things: family, food, presents, shopping, get-togethers and most importantly, about the birth of Jesus Christ. For the past few weeks I’ve been preaching a series titled All iWant for Christmas. We started with a look at Matthew 2 and how we want to believe in something bigger than ourselves. From there we went to Luke to consider that we want to experience peace in our lives. Today I want to be very brief and draw your attention to Matthew 1:23, where Joseph was reminded of Isaiah’s prophecy: “They shall call his name Emmanuel, which means, God with us.” I don’t know about you, but I want God close to me. I want to know that He is close by, that when I pray He hears and when I hurt He cares and when I am lonely He is there. I know all that up here, in my head, but I want to feel it. I want to know it.

Do you ever feel distant from God? Wish you were closer to Him? We go through those times when we know something is wrong, something is amiss, but we can’t quite put our finger on it. I think more than we like to admit, we all go through seasons of our lives when we do feel that way. We all go through wilderness times in our lives, times when we feel deserted by God, when our prayers aren’t being heard, let alone answered. We feel distant from God, cool in our devotion to Him, wondering if we will ever get that closeness back.

Some of you may be going through great trials right now and you wonder if God is there and if He cares. Do you feel abandoned in your trial? Why does God seem so distant when you need Him most? And why do you feel guilty for having those feelings? You’re troubled, so you pray. You’re distressed, so you cry for God to bring you relief. But all you hear in reply is silence. God isn’t listening. Christmas is supposed to be a time for family and celebration and joy and happiness and peace, but in the midst of a world of noise and busyness and crowds of people you feel all alone. Is that your testimony?

The psalmist cried out on many occasions things that sound awfully familiar to me. In Psalm 13:1 he said, “How much longer, LORD, will you forget about me? Will it be forever? How long will you hide?” I don’t know whether you feel that way or not, whether you feel distant from God today or not. Perhaps you do, and you want God to be close to you. It may be that you’ve never felt closer to God than you feel right now and your relationship with Him is wonderful. That’s where we all need to be. We all need what Paul prayed for the Ephesian believers. He said,

“I bow my knees unto the Father, that he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, that you may be strengthened with power through his Spirit in the inward man; that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; to the end that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be strong to apprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge, that you may be filled unto all the fullness of God.

Do you want to know the fullness of Christ? Do you want to be strengthened with His power, rooted and grounded in love? Able to apprehend the width and length and depth and height and to know the love of Christ? Do you want Him to be close to you?

The truth is that Jesus Christ really is Emmanuel: God with us. Initially the prophecy quoted here had nothing to do with us – it was a pledge by God to be with Israel, but Matthew makes an application here to the Incarnation – that God the Son, Jesus Christ, took on human form to dwell among us. Nowhere in the Scripture is it said more beautifully than in Philippians 2:5-8.

Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.

We might say that we want God close to us, but the fact is that He is close to us. He demonstrated that when He took on human flesh to experience the life you and I know. He is close to us in the person of the Holy Spirit today, at work in and around us. He is the omnipresent God: not a God who lives way up there in some far and distant land while we live here in continual search of His presence. He is the God who dwells among us, who tabernacles with us, and in fact for those of you who believe, lives within you. And God never moves – He is the Father of lights in whom is no variableness. Like the sun in the sky, He is established and radiates in every way. Everything else revolves around Him.

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