But, interestingly, for others, November 22, 1963 is marked by the loss of someone of greater eternal consequence than John F. Kennedy. Like Kennedy this man died at a relatively young age – 64. But unlike the president he spoke of eternal verities in ways that made children sit up and take notice and leading intellectuals change their minds. In Sunday’s message, “Immanuel” we will begin with a story from the life of this man who is considered one of Christ’s most important servants of the 20th Century. In the rarified air of Cambridge University, in a room full of religionists of all stripes, his simple words captured the essence of the Christian faith and the purpose of God’s incarnation in Jesus Christ.
Someone has said, “In Jesus, God has put up a “Gone Fishing” sign on the religion shop. He has done the whole job in Jesus once and for all and simply invited us to believe it – to trust the bizarre proposition that in Him every believer is home free without a single religious exertion: no fasting till your knees fold, no prayers you have to get right or else, no standing on your head with your right thumb in your left ear and receiving the correct creed – no nothing. The entire show has been set to rights in the mystery of Christ – even though nobody can see a single improvement. Yes, it’s crazy. And yes, it’s wild, and outrageous, and vulgar. And any God who would do such a thing is a God who has no taste. And worst of all, it doesn’t sell worth beans. But it is Good News – the only permanent good news there is – and therefore I find it absolutely captivating.” And so do we!
And it all starts with the incarnation – God becoming flesh and blood. Think of it. The God of all condescends to take on all that makes a human being human. As the writer of Hebrew points out, “For man doesn’t have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are….” God doesn’t become an angel. He doesn’t become one of the angelic host. He becomes a man – a creature of dust and brokenness so that he might recreate us in his own image and likeness. He takes on human flesh so that He might do for us what Adam and Eve sought to do for themselves.
This Sunday marks the beginning of Advent 2013 at Hebron and we begin where Matthew begins with the first of five names he offers for Jesus – Immanuel – “God with us.” God with us – have you considered the depth of that name? Have you contemplated the meaning of that reality in light of any previous contact between God and man? What does it mean, “God with us?” What is the interpretation of that statement? What is the impact of those words? These are the questions we will consider this Sunday.
In preparation for Sunday’s message you may wish to consider the following:
1. What is it that distinguishes the Christian faith from all other faiths, including Judaism?
2. Why does the angel of the Lord cite Isaiah 7:14 in “his” message to Joseph?
3. What is the context of God’s message to Judah in Isaiah? What does this tell us about God’s character?
4. What’s the correlation between God’s message to King Ahaz and Joseph?
5. Why does Matthew present 5 names for Jesus in Chapters one and two?
6. Why define the meaning of the name Immanuel in verse 23?
7. How is the message to Joseph a signal of God’s intention to change His relationship to men and women?
8. What does the preposition “with” mean in verse 25?
9. Why is the incarnation and our understanding of it so crucial to a proper understanding of God and us?
10. What are some of the fruits of the incarnation in your life?
See you Sunday as we worship Immanuel!