18 December 2022
Psalm 80:1-7, 16-18
Sunday Cycle of Prayer
The Anglican Church of Korea
St. Thomas Church, Eustis
Christ Church, Fort Meade
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
And He shall be called Emmanuel - God with us. What a statement - it
sounds so simple - God with us. We have heard this name for Jesus - so
many times, Emmanuel! It makes me wonder what other names or titles are
given to Jesus.
As I began to search for the answer, I was amazed to discover that
scripture gives Jesus more than 200 names or titles. 200! . Some are
very familiar to us - the Good Shepherd, Prince of Peace, Wonderful
Counselor, Mighty King. I am sure you could add more.- While those names
for Jesus are familiar, many other names are more obscure and would require
some real study to understand - names like like ‘morning star’ and ‘rose of
Sharon’. But wouldn’t it make an interesting bible study!
Today, we hear of Emmanuel - God with us! Even at it’s simplest level, it
makes perfect sense. We know, we believe that Jesus is God - Jesus is
born here on earth, and so God is now with us. With us, in a physical form. Is
this the first time in human history that God has been WITH us in this way?
We see throughout the old testament that God speaks to chosen people -
Noah, Moses, Abraham, David . . . the list goes on. But to see scripture
talk about GOD WITH US, we have to go back to Genesis - to the Garden of
Eden - before the fall, where God interacts with creation, where He speaks
with Adam and Eve.
It is their sin - and ours - that separates them - and us - from God. It is the
very reason that Jesus - fully God and fully man - is born - God again,
with us! Emmanuel is the promise of God - fulfilled! We have a reason to be
joyful - to celebrate!
Emmanuel comes - as God to be WITH us, but he also comes as Man, to
show us, to be our example of who and what man was created to be. He
does not arrive as we might think God should arrive. He comes to share in all
the hardships man suffers.
As much as we might want to think of that first Christmas - the birth of Jesus
as that peaceful, idyllic scene depicted in some of our beloved hymns, let’s get
real for just a minute. Mary and Joseph had their share of grief during the
months leading up to Jesus’ birth.
Mary - a young innocent teenage girl, finds herself pregnant after a divine
encounter. Joseph - her fiancé, can only believe that he has been betrayed,
until he, too hears an incredible revelation in a dream. Imagine the gossip
they must have endured!
Then, Joseph and Mary, who is ‘great with child’, set out for Bethlehem. Can
you imagine traveling the 90 miles or so- walking or riding on the back of a
donkey - at 9 months pregnant? (I’m not sure which would be worse).
Then . . . . arriving in Bethlehem, with Mary in labor, only to find no place to
stay! Do you have this picture in your mind? Mary - a young innocent girl,
with no women to help in the delivery of her child - can you imagine her panic?
Her fear could only be topped by the panic that Joseph must have felt! Men in
that time would not be found anywhere near a woman in labor!
And where do they end up? A stable - a barn - with the animals. With all its
stench and noise! This is where Mary endures the pain of labor and delivery.
Perhaps this is the perfect time for the verse from the Psalms - ‘Weeping may
last for the night, But joy comes in the morning’. The joy of the birth of her
son, and the Son of God!
Mary must lay her newborn in a manger - the animal’s feeding trough, that
Joseph no doubt had to clean out before making it a cradle. THIS is no
place for a newborn! And yet, God chooses to be born in this, the poorest of
human conditions. This is our God! Coming to earth in human form - taking
on our humanity in all its pain and depravity.
This is Emanuel - God with us!
We have our creche appropriately displayed here, under the altar, under
the cross, so that as we remember these humble beginnings, and also
remember the suffering Jesus endures in his life and death. His
death on the cross, endured to set us free.
For we cannot worship the babe at the manger without also remembering His
death on the cross. But his death is not the end either! We might interpret
this Emmanuel, this ’God with us’ ending with Jesus death or with his
ascension - a mere 32 years or so. But, no, Jesus sends his Holy Spirit to
live on within us - God remains with us!
If we go back to those many names given to Jesus - Prince of Peace, Savior,
Messiah, Good Shepherd - those names, those titles take on new, even
more intimate meaning when we consider him Emmanuel - God with us. For
now we know that God IS our as Prince of Peace, God is WITH us as OUR
Savior. Whatever our circumstance, whatever our need - God provides for
that need, not from afar, but as our GOD WITH US!
So, let us celebrate the birth of Emmanuel - let us welcome him not only as
the infant in the manger - sharing our human condition. But let us welcome
and invite this Emmanuel into our lives - into our hearts. Just as God is with
us, may WE also walk WITH Him.
Oh, come, Oh come, Emmanuel!