God with Us – Dec. 24, 2018

Often times we say they are open books waiting to be filled. We want them to be better than us – and we want them to learn from our shortcomings.

The trouble is, we never know how our children will turn out – but we have high hopes regardless.

Christmas is often called the season of great expectations. For children it is the suspense of waiting and joy-filled excitement when they wake-up on Christmas morning. It is the surprises and the chaos of shredded wrapping paper, unexpected treats and hopefully, wishes coming true.

Sometimes it all comes together and other times, well, let’s just say, it is less than perfect.

I am sure it has never happened to you but sometimes children have a temper tantrum on Christmas morning because they didn’t get what they wanted.

Expectations play a huge part in Christmas. We have expectations of our family. Expectations about the way this Christmas will look, taste and feel. Expectations about the gifts we’ll give and receive and other people’s reactions.

More than 2000 years ago, the people back then had great expectations too. Some were expecting a Messiah and a king. King Herod was expecting a threat. The wise men were expecting to find a king  with great potential. The shepherds were expecting, well, an uneventful night! Joseph was expecting to get married. And Mary was expecting a baby – and not just an baby – God’s Baby.

What must it be like to have God’s child? What would he become? What would he do? What did it mean that he would set his people free?

Luke 2:19 tells us that after the shepherds visited Mary and shared what the angels had said to them, she treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. There was certainly a lot to think about.

The last verse of Mark Lowry’s beautiful “Mary, Did You Know? poses the question this way:

Mary did you know that your baby boy is Lord of all creation?
Mary did you know that your baby boy will one day rule the nations?
Did you know that your baby boy is heaven’s perfect Lamb?
This sleeping child you’re holding – is the great ‘I am’.

How could she know? How could God be a baby? Was this really the child the prophets had written about? Was this the long-awaited Messiah? How could he be, this baby looked so ordinary.

There have been a few people, who, the minute they were born, everyone knew that they were destined for greatness. David’s son Solomon was sure to be a king. But that’s more the exception than the norm.

For example, Abraham Lincoln’s parents never looked at little Abe when he was a newborn out on the frontier and thought, this baby is destined for greatness! He’s going to be president of the US. How could they?

Albert Einstein was ‘so slow as a child’ that this parents were told by his teachers that he’d never amount to anything. Who knew he would become one of our greatest thinkers.

But this baby in a manger was predestined for greatness the moment he was born. The Advent of Jesus, the Messiah, fulfills thousands of prophecies, but also breaks all expectations and reshapes them. He was nothing like what the people hope for or expected and yet he was everything we needed!

Today in the town of David, a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. 

Isaiah 9:6 proclaims the good news like this, “For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.”

Throughout the pages of Bible over 100 names and titles are given to Jesus. And whether He is called the “Bright morning star, The Gate, the Root of Jesse, the Alpha and the Omega, or the Lamb of God”, each of these names and titles is rich with meaning. They all say something significant about ‘who Jesus was and is’.

However, there is no name more significant than “Immanuel”. This name, which Matthew refers to in his Gospel, was first given to Jesus by the prophet Isaiah 700 years before His birth. And this very special name, as Matthew tells us, means “God with us.”

Now wait a minute, wasn’t God always with the human race? Wasn’t God with us before Jesus? Yes. In one sense God, the Creator, has always been with His creation. The God of the Bible, our true Creator is omnipresent, which means everywhere at the same time. He fills all of creation with His presence; and yet, He is not a part of that creation. He remains Creator distinct from His creation; and so a God who is everywhere is certainly a God who is with us – yet seems distant.

John 1:1-3 puts it like this, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God; and all things were made through Him – and apart from Him nothing was made which was made… ”   God wanted to be closer.

Paul writes in Colossians 1:15-17, “He (Jesus) is the image of the invisible God, the first born of all creation. For in him all things in heaven and earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers – all things have been created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.” 

And verses 19-20 reads, “For it was the Father’s good pleasure ‘for all the fullness to dwell in Him, and through Him’ – to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace – through the blood of His cross.”     In and through Jesus, God was doing more than we could ever ask for – or imagine. 

My question for you this evening is… Why was God going to all this trouble? Why not just wipe us all out and start over? We had given him trouble since the dawn of creation. Mankind was blessed with the gift of freewill and we have often used it poorly.

I love this cartoon, it reads, ‘Ever wonder if God had second thoughts about adding free will?’

In the movie Bruce Almighty, Bruce – played by Jim Carey, accuses God of being a slacker. He thinks he can do things better than God. So God gives him a chance to be God.

He tells him though, there are just 2 rules he must follow,

1) Don’t tell anyone you are God – and

2) Remember, you can’t change (or mess with)Free-will.

Bruce was having a party in his home, had just upset his girlfriend and very likely ruined their relationship. So, he tries to make her love him – but his demands fall on deaf ears. He has God’s power yet she must choose to love him.

At one point, Bruce cries out, “What good is all this power if I cannot change free-will?” And God, played by Morgan Freeman, says, “Welcome to my world!” It helps us understand how God must feel at times.

God came to be with us to solve the problem of sin and the struggle we have with Free-will. God could have started over but he had great expectations for us. He wanted to see mankind survive and thrive. God’s love is greater than our sin and disobedience.

Who knew it would be harder to change hearts – than the universe?

     Our Greatest Need is fulfilled because Jesus is with us.      (Poem)

     If our greatest need had been information, God would have sent us an educator;

     If our greatest need had been technology, God would have sent us a scientist;

     If our greatest need had been money, God would have sent us an economist;

     If our greatest need had been pleasure, God would have sent us an entertainer;

     But our greatest need was for love and forgiveness, so God sent us a Savior.

God peers down on us and smiles when we get it. Like a daddy or mommy who dreams of the wondrous possibilities; God believes in us. So much so, he made us co-creators of his vision when he left. Our lives are open books to the future. We have the potential to do great things or cause great harm. He is cheering us on and hoping we see the light.

He believes in you, do you believe in Him? Like Mary, it is something we need to ponder – and I pray you come to believe if you haven’t already. Consider this, ‘A thousand times in history a baby has become a king, but only once in history did a king become a baby’.

This Christmas, remember what Christmas is all about: it’s about Jesus becoming nothing – so that you would have everything. It’s about Jesus becoming a slave so that you could be free. It is about a father who has great expectations, – great hopes for each of us. And a God who never leaves or forsakes us.

I hope you all have a Merry Christmas!!!

Amen.