Matthew 1:18-25(NIV)This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. But after he had 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 are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins." All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: "The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel" --which means, "God with us." When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.
Immanuel - God with us. That's really what all of this is all about, is it not? God, the great God of the universe, Who created the universe, Who fills the universe, came down to be conceived within a human female named Mary in the little town of Nazareth, to exist there as a fetus for the usual period of nine months, and then, to be a part of a very treacherous trip over the early roadways of Samaria and Judea to come to the birthplace of Joseph, the man pledged to be married to Mary. All so that He could be Immanuel - God with us.
During this time of year, we sing "Oh, Come, Oh Come, Emmanuel." Come and be with us, God. Come and bless us, God. Be our God with us. Bless us as we serve you, God. Emmanuel, God with us.
This time of year, we celebrate the coming of the baby in a manger. But Advent is a time that we remember that God comes in three ways. Just as He came as a baby in a manger, so He comes to us in His Word and the Sacraments. And just as He came and He continues to come, so we know with certainty that He is coming again.
The main message of Christmas is "Immanuel - God with us." Its not simply a past event that we look at, as we stare at representations of manger scenes and watch Christmas programs and sing Christmas hymns. Its not just something that we blankly comment on as happening once in time, almost 2,000 years ago. "Immanuel - God with us" is a reality that started then and will continue into eternity.
Immanuel - God with us. He is with us. He is with us in the most complete way in the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper. Yes, the flesh of the baby born in Bethlehem, the blood of the Son of Mary in a manger is for Christians present to eat and drink each and every time they celebrate the Lord's Supper, Holy Communion. What a privilege it is that we celebrate communion here at Trinity every weekend. In fact, when I was called as pastor of this church, that is something that I was very pleased was the case, that with some rare exceptions, every weekend, services of this church include the celebration of Holy Communion, where the flesh and blood of the babe, the Son of Mary is given to us to eat and to drink in and with the bread and wine.
There are many people in our world today who are searching. They wish that the good feelings of Christmas could remain year -'round. There are many lost and hurting people in the world who join in crying out, "Come, Lord Jesus" who tragically fail to realize that Jesus not only has come, He DOES come, right on the altar of every church who celebrates the sacrament of Holy Communion according to Christ's institution. On this Christmas and every Christmas, we can rejoice that our God is not some abstract being far away from us, but He is Immanuel, God with us. We celebrate this again, as we have the very flesh and blood of a very real God, Immanuel, God with us. And we have Christmas all year long, each time obey the Lord's Command to celebrate OFTEN the Lord's Supper. Because each time we celebrate, we have Immanuel, God with us.
The presence of the Lord is with us in the office of the ministry. And that is true no matter who occupies that office. Men come and men go, but the office is still here, and is still a constant. The office is a gift from God, a gift that God gives to His church so that God can be present among His people. The voices change, the faces change, we like some more than others; there are a variety of personalities, but when the Word is proclaimed, when the sacraments are celebrated, it is not about the individual who holds the office. It is about Christ Who comes through the office.
It has been my privilege to serve as your pastor for these 5 _ years and occupy this office in your midst. I want to take this opportunity to thank you for the support that you have given me. At the same time, I also want to tell you that even though I had previously indicated that I would be here through Christmas, after consultation with the congregational chairman, the chair of the elders and the vacancy pastor, I feel like since I am starting my new job tomorrow at Carle at 8:00 in the morning, I need to make this break now. You will really like Pastor Teuscher. From what I have been told, he is a good preacher, and he is also very saavy in many other areas. I have been very impressed with him during the time I spent with him.
Immanuel: God with us. God is with us in His gifts. He brings His power for forgiveness and new life through the gifts He gives in His church: His Word, His word linked to physical things in the sacraments, baptism and communion. God is with us among the church, even though church people don't always act like they should, the power of God is there with forgiveness for sin and empowerment in weakness and struggle. And above it all, we know that the message of this one Word is the marvel of all time. Our Christ truly is Immanuel, God with us. Amen.
(© All rights reserved by Rev. Jeffrey D. McPike. This sermon may be copied for reading by others, but if it is put to any other use, please contact Rev. Jeffrey McPike. Thank You.)
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