Sermon December 20, 2015: God in the midst of us

Posted in Sermons
[Dr. Roberto Miranda]
  • Presenter: Dr. Roberto Miranda
  • Date: December 20, 2015
  • Location: Congregación León de Judá, Boston MA

Mathew, chapter 1, verse 18 and following. This is how the birth of Lord Jesus, the Messiah, came about.

“…His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit, because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. But after he considered this an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son and you will give him the name Jesus because he will save his people from the sins.” And all this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet, “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son and they will call him Emanuel” – which means God with us…”

Say together, God with us. God in the midst of us. that is the core, is the heart of the Christmas message. It’s one of the most mysterious messages that the human mind can possibly try to process. The fact that the awesome Creator of the universe, in whom everything subsists and has its being, could possibly shrink himself to enter humanity as a human being.

And God did this with a benevolent and merciful purpose, among other things he wanted to feel what we feel. Of course God knows all things, he knows how people feel but it’s a different thing for him to take on a flesh and blood and to actually experience what you and I experience in life. And this purpose was in God’s heart from the very beginning, right back in the Garden of Eden, after man and woman had sinned God already said that the seed of the woman will crush the serpent’s head, he was already envisioning himself entering into humanity.

The incarnation was not an afterthought, it wasn’t a last minute kind of [inaudible], this was something that was in God’s heart from the beginning. This was prophesized by the prophet Isaiah thousands of years earlier where it says that the prophetess would be pregnant and would give birth and that his name would be Emanuel, which means God with us.

So that is the message that the angel gave when he appeared to Mary, when we was citing back to this prophecy to Isaiah so many years earlier saying that that church, that mysterious being that would be born, his essence would be God with us.

Now, of course this concept of the incarnation is a theological concept we all believe, we all know it’s essencial and core, but does it mean for us in our daily life today in Christmas 2015? And how does this message connect to help us in our daily struggles in life.

I’ve already said this before but I want to now go through this in an isolated way. This is an important thing to emphasize because there are groups through history that have called into question this belief that God became man. In the early centuries of the Christian church there was a lot of debate about this.

The first thing that we need to hold on to is that the name Emanuel means that Jesus Christ is God. He is the second person of the Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, he is that expression of the divinity, the Son of God.

The fact that Jesus is God gives us confidence in knowing that he has all authority, that what he says will come to pass. When he has a purpose in “I have come that they might have life and might have it abundantly,” they will have life and they will have it abundantly, his purposes in your life are certain.

When Jesus was given the great commission to the Apostles he said, “all authority in heaven and earth is been given to me therefore you go.”

He is the all powerful God. His will and purpose will be fulfilled on earth. In spite of anything you might seen in the world that might discourage or make you think otherwise, our calling to disciple the nations will be fulfilled successfully.

The Bible says that every knee will bow; every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. We also need to remember that Jesus Christ is sufficient. We don’t need anything else to come into the presence of the living God. Jesus is enough and Jesus is alive.

The Apostle Paul took a lot of things to make this clear in the Book of Galatians, where he was writing saying that we don’t need to believe in Jesus and something else, that Jesus is enough. When you pray you don’t need anyone else to help you, pray in the name of Jesus. Anything else is unnecessary, superfluous, Jesus is the one to bring us into the presence of the Father.

Another thing we see in the week celebrated today is that Jesus is worthy. He is worthy of our praise, he is worthy of our music and of our lives. The wise men, they worshipped Jesus, the shepherds worshipped Jesus, the angels worshipped Jesus and we are called to worship Jesus too.

Every time we come to church, that’s why we come, we remember that Jesus is the son of God and we come to worship and praise and glorify his name.

Something else that I really appreciate when I meditate on this concept that Jesus is Emanuel, God with us, I realize and I thank God, that we don’t have to be afraid anymore as we come into the presence of God. When we come to our God, we don’t come to our great God who doesn’t understand us, he was one of us, he is one of us, he knows how I feel.

Think about this in the Old Testament, how is progressively revealing his heart to his people that there were laws and very careful protocol on how to come into the presence of God, and it was showing us that he loves us and wants a relationship with us but it was all so distant, but now has showed us that he is not far away and that we don’t have to be afraid, we don’t have to walk on egg shells, we just come to him as we are, thanks to Jesus.

One Old Testament story is very sober and puts things in perspective is the story of the man Uza who was guiding an ox cart that had the arc of the tabernacle on it, remember the story? Coming into Jerusalem David was there, they were celebrating and the ox cart starts to wobble and the arc is going to fall off so Uza, well intentioned, with a good heart, wants to stop that arch from touching the dirty ground and he reaches out his hand and he steadies the arc of the tabernacle, and the Bible says that the anger of the Lord burned against Uza and he was put to death right there, teaching the holiness of God and his protocol needed to be followed.

But we see in contrast that now in Jesus we are made clean, and we can come into the presence of God without fear and without anxiety because we are welcomed in his presence, thanks to the blood of Jesus.

We see the tenderness of God revealed when it says, unto us a child is born and to us a son is given. You think of the tenderness and the joy when a child is born into a family, we celebrated that a little bit earlier, so also now, instead of anxiety and fear and being careful, we can come to our God with freedom and tenderness and know that we are adopted into his family. He is Emanuel, God with us.

All these stories about the nativity, the Bible didn’t have to go into as much details as it did, but the Bible was showing us that God became one of us, that familiarity, that joy of a child being born into the family, that God is now with us. We are part of his family.

Another important thing to remember as we meditate on the fact that Jesus is God with us, Emanuel, is that Jesus understands, God understands through Christ how we feel. He intimately is acquainted with the ins and outs of our human psychology and even our weaknesses.

That’s what it says in the Psalms, it says, God knows our frame, our condition. He’s been there, he lived it, he understands you. More specifically, he understands our temptations. That means that if you are struggling here today, maybe you have problems that you can just quite seem to change, habits that are hard to break, character defects you struggle with, different emotional problems and as hard as you try it just doesn’t seem to be getting better as quickly as you would like. God says today that he is Emanuel, he is God with us, and he understands what you’re going through.

Even as we struggle and we are called to holiness and we preach that here, that God wants us to change and become more and more like Jesus, but in the process we have one who walks alongside us, one who understands, one who can be there with you, who really knows how you feel, because the Bible says that he was tempted in every way, just as we are, yet it was without sin. So, he can help us who are struggling with temptations also to come through what we’re dealing with.

In your own journey, in your own struggle know that you don’t walk alone, that Jesus is walking beside you saying, you can do this, I am with you, we’ll get through this together.

Another important concept to think about is that we meditate on the fact that Jesus is Emanuel, God with us, is that he understands our pain, our grief, our inner emotional struggles, that is not foreign to him.

Isaiah 53:3 says that he was despised and rejected by mankind, he was a man of suffering and familiar with pain like one from whom people hide their faces, he was despised and held in low esteem. Jesus suffered. He understands human loneliness, he understands because he lived it, he lived rejection, he lived despair, he lived poverty, he lived abandonment, he lived violence and even death. There is nothing you’re going through that God doesn’t understand. He is Emanuel, God with us today.

At this time of year where sometimes people are much more aware of the fact that families are divided, that there are certain relatives and loved ones that they can’t see, because they are far away, or maybe their financial struggles that you feel more intensely, unemployment or different things that we don’t quite see the solution, during this season where perhaps some anxiety could come in, let the peace of God rule in your hearts. Let us know that God is Emanuel, God with us, that Christ is with you right in the midst of it and he knows how you feel.

Sometimes one of those things that can often make us doubt or struggle is God is really with us, is illness, physical illness. Physical illness perhaps as much as anything else can just make you feel like, God where are you? Maybe you have a condition that you’re struggling with and you’re praying for healing or getting treatment, and it just seems to be lingering on and it’s hard. Those are the times when God can say that he had a body too, he knows what physical pain feels like too and he’s with us in the midst and he understands what we are going through.

Jesus with physical body the Bible says in Isaiah 53:4 that surely he took up our pain, he bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him and afflicted. Now, did he have colds, did he hit his finger with a hammer when he was working in the carpenter shop? We don’t know, but we do know he suffered on the cross. He knows what pain is like. He can identify with you.

And we believe in a God who is with us, so that might mean during illnesses we pray for healing and we believe in healing in this church, and we have seen that over and over again, our God is Jehovah Rapha, a healer, he healed in his physical life. We also believe in a God who understands what you’re going through as you’re going through it and he makes his resources in power available to you because his power is perfected in our weaknesses.

We have a God who became flesh, a God who understands our emotional pain, who understands our physical pain, a God who became one of us and who makes the Father accessible to us.

Hebrew 4:15 says, “… for we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way just as we are, yet he did not sin.” We have a mediator to God, a mediator who understands, who is with us, who is accessible to us.

God who experienced the whole spectrum of human experience and struggles, and yet came through it without sin, believing in the Father.

Because God became flesh there is no longer any division necessary between God and humanity. We are no longer strangers, we are no longer enemies, we are no longer outcasts from his presence.

Ephesians 2, verse 12 says, “…Remember that you at one time were separate from Christ, you were excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise. You were without hope and without God in the world…” you need to remember that, that without Jesus we were separate from God, no hope, no access to the Father.

And we need to remember that there is nothing that can bridge the gap on our strength. It doesn’t matter how nice you are, it doesn’t matter how religious we are, how well intentioned and sincere we might be, if we don’t have Jesus we are completely alienated from God, no hope, no salvation.

Only in Jesus, only in faith in Jesus is the bridge, is that gap bridge is Jesus our mediator, our connector with the Father. Ephesians 2:13, “…But now in Christ Jesus you who were once far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ, for he, Jesus himself, is our peace. For he, Jesus , has made the two one, he destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostilities setting aside the flesh, the law with its commandments, regulations, his purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, making peace and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross through which he put to death their hostility.”

In the incarnation it is possible for a diverse people to become one. And we encourage you as leaders at this time of Christmas to remember that God became flesh, he became one of us, that we can be together, one new humanity in Christ because God has made peace through that person, through Jesus.

Through Emanuel, through God became flesh, that this community, this church that is Lion of Judah, here we are all together today, that we would be one people, that in this little outpost to the Kingdom of God we will show that Jesus can know down every barrier or race, of ethnicity, he can break down barriers of socio-economic differences, all the things that could make people hostile towards one another, God is Emanuel and he makes us one.

Let’s pray for this unity and this harmony that God would have for us. Would you pray, Pastor Gregory, for our church to remain united and in that love of Christ that breaks down barriers of enmity and distance and resentment, God can keep us as one, united in Jesus Christ.

God I thank you that you have shown a Christmas that there is no distance that can be crossed by you. You came from God to man, you became flesh, Lord God, and in the same way, oh Lord, I pray that we would be one as you and the Father are one, that the love that is among you, God, would be among us, Lord Jesus, that every division, every barrier, every hostility would be broken and that we could be a prophetic sign that our God lives.

Finally, as we bring this to close, I want to talk about it is God’s heart to dwell not just in heaven, not just in his creation, but in human hearts. I invite us, especially in this Christmas time to examine our hearts and to realize that that God that penetrated the universe, that became flesh, also longs to penetrate into our hearts, into our lives and set up his throne within us in the flesh and blood of our lives. Let’s be sure that we are welcoming that arrival of Jesus into us.

Jesus offers an invitation through the ages, like he said in the Book of Revelations, behold, I stand at the door and knock, if anyone hears my voice and opens the door I will come in and eat with him and he with me.

I’m going to take a little time and I probably just… I have this ardent desire, especially beginning now in this stage of the life of our congregation, that Lion of Judah, among many other churches, but let’s speak about us, for a moment, humbly and without any kind of pretentions. But our desire is that this church might be considered increasingly by this community that we are in, as a refuge, as a harbor for individuals, for families who want to invite Christ to come into their homes, to come into their lives and to defend them, to bless them, to support them, to protect them, to illuminate their lives. You may be a father, a mother and you’re fearing for your children. They are coming perhaps into adolescence or young adulthood, or going to high school and we know how hard it is out there right now, how difficult life can be.

I can tell you more than ever I feel that our community, the key is for us, you and I, to announce to this city, to this community, that in Jesus Christ we can find refuge, we can find protection, we can find blessing, we can find prosperity and blessing for our children, for our marriages, protection, that we can prosper under the loving shadow of the Almighty through Jesus Christ who is our friend and is our brother and dwells among us.

So, I want to invite you if you have not done so already, to this year begin with a special hope of protection and of covering and of blessing for you, your family, your home, your children, your finances, your body, your health, by inviting Jesus Christ to come into your life, this Jesus who went through all this trouble to make himself accessible to us.

Do not be afraid, if you want to invite Jesus Christ into your life, just raise your hand, we want to pray for you wherever you are right now, just keep your hand raised. You want the Son of God to enter into your life. Let’s begin something extraordinary. Just raise your hand. If you raised your hand why don’t you stand. This is not a show. Nobody is looking at you except Christ himself and he has said that he will enter if you invite him. I know there is more.

I cannot fight by myself, Lord, I cannot wage the warfare that this life requires with my own strength, I need you. Come, Jesus Christ, and inhabit and Father we pray that this city we pray for an incarnation of the power of the gospel upon the city of Boston. Something new and revolutionary to happen, Lord, in the life of your children.

I want you to pray for somebody right now. I initiate you to a new time. I initiate you into a new dimension, the dimension of the Christ who has been born. I declare a revolution in your life, that all powerful Christ, Cristos Pantocrátoras, they say in Greek, the Lord who is above everything, above every other power, that Christ is in you right now.

God is entering, God who is incarnating in Jesus Christ is entering into your home, into your neighborhood. You’re going to possess all the land that your feet step on through the power of Jesus Christ. New things are happening in your life right now.

Lord we want to project that message of hope and of salvation on to this city, on to this community, make us absolutely contagious, Father, this year, that we might convey this message of the living Christ, the incarnate Christ who has come to visit us. Thank you, Lord.

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