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Sunday December 2 - Emmanuel - Advent Sermon - Matthew 1:23
“Emmanuel,” Matthew 1:23
Gaius Glenn Atkins, then Minister at First Congregational Church in Detroit, during his Sunday morning address on December 26th, 1909 said, “The ground of religion is in the changeless love of God.” And what is true religion? James 1:27 (NLT).
“Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.”
Pure religion is rooted in the love of God and it is active. Here’s the heart of what II hope you’ll see today. Pure religion, defined by the love of God, is incarnational.
That’s what Emmanuel means. God with us. So many of the biblical names for Jesus are that way. Jesus comes from the root Hebrew word “yasha,” which means saved. His parents would have called Him “Yeshua,” which we pronounce Joshua. Time and translations into new languages eventually gave us Jesus.
Emmanuel – God is with us. Pure religion is incarnation. That is, it has us crashing into the circumstances of the lost, least, and lonely with the power of God guiding our hands to get messy and make a difference to God’s glory. Well, that’s exactly what Jesus did in the incarnation. He left the throne of Heaven to crash into our lost condition to make a way to rescue us from sin – to remedy our condition.
Emmanuel – God is with us. This morning I’m going to focus on two main ideas connected with incarnation of Christ – Emmanuel – God is with us. God in Christ has condescended, that is, stooped low to be with us. How do we apply this?
(1) There is what Christ has done for us. (2) There is what Christ is in us. As Dr. Elmer Towns, one of my early mentors has written in his book, “The Names of Jesus,” there is the effect of Emmanuel and the experience of Emmanuel.
There are essentially two aspects of the incarnation of Emmanuel. God is with us in Christ to save us and God is with us in Christ to sanctify (change, transform) us.
(1) What Christ has done for us: He has made a way for salvation for all sinners to be forgiven of sin, set free from its enslavement, and receive eternal life now. He came to us in our imprisonment, in our condition, suffered among us, set us free!
He didn’t come as a mighty warrior with an army to destroy the prison. He didn’t come as a liberator in the classical sense of one with the key to the gate from the outside to let us out of enslavement to the jailor. No! He showed up inside the prison yard one day as one of us to highlight the cruelty of the prison as one with no sin, yet bound in shackles. He lived perfectly to satisfy all of the requirements of the law so that his capital punishment wouldn’t be the end of Him, but the beginning of the end of the injustice of the very imprisonment itself.
Christ came and dwelt among us, lived as one of us, then set us free from the inside of our condition, just as His love sets us free from working on the inside…
That’s what incarnation is about. One scholar put it this way, “In accordance with the principle involved in the Divine Incarnation, the mode of the Spirit’s operation is sacramental; the Incarnation was itself the supreme illustration of the sacramental method, i.e. the conveyance of spiritual and Divine gifts through visible and material channels… The Spirit is, in a word, the agent through whom the exalted humanity of the Divine Son is applied to our sinful nature for its healing and restoration.” Emmanuel – God with us, in us, transforming us; rightly reflecting glory to Himself as He passes His power and nature through us in Grace.
(2) What Christ is in us: Because of Christ atoning work at the Cross, through faith in Christ we have union with God. This is salvation in the simplest and most basic sense, as recognized throughout the history of the Church and as is most basically-essentially-fundamentally expressed in the Bible.
· John 8:36: So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free.” (NLT)
· Romans 10:9-11: “If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved. As the Scriptures tell us, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be disgraced.” (NLT)
· Acts 2:38: “Peter replied, “Each of you must repent of your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (NLT)
We have union with God through faith in the Son and are filled with the Holy Spirit. But many have union and don’t experience communion, not meaningfully.
I want to suggest that is because too often believers stop at union. I’ve confessed Christ as Savior and Lord. I’ve been baptized. I’m in church… something’s missing.
Often, that something missing is Emmanuel. He was with us at salvation and really still is but existentially, experientially, He’s not present. That’s because we came to the mountain of faith but didn’t ascend the trail of the life of faith. We drank from the cup but not the river. We waded into the pool of new life but not the ocean of the with-God life. We need three simple things and to continue in them.
Sanctification, being set apart to God and for His uses is comprised of this CYCLE:
· Separation to God. (Don’t sprinkle in some godly)
· Separation from Sin. (Don’t just add God, attain godliness)
· Separated to Service. (Don’t neglect the greatest spiritual discipline – work)
God with us never leaves us. However, it is possible for us to lose a sense of His presence because of our preoccupations with lesser things. Emmanuel isn’t’ a part of our life. It’s the fuel of life. It is the foundation of all of the rest of our life.
Serving our Lord will bring with it joy and sorrow, highs and suffering. That’s what incarnation life is all about! One Church Father wrote, “The Lord did not come to make a display. He came to heal and to teach suffering men. For one who wanted to make a display the thing would have been just to appear and dazzle the beholders. But for Him Who came to heal and to teach the way was not merely to dwell here, but to put Himself at the disposal of those who needed Him, and to be manifested according as they could bear it, not vitiating the value of the Divine appearing by exceeding their capacity to receive it.” Grace has crashed into our existence. He has saved us by becoming one of us. Emmanuel – God is with us!
 “Things That Remain,” Gaius Glenn Atkins. The First Congregational Church in Detroit, 1910, page 95.
 “The Names of Jesus,” Elmer Towns. Accent Publications, Denver CO. 1987, pages 70-71.
 “The doctrine of the Incarnation,” Robert L. Ottley, Methuen London, 1911 pages 651-52. (archive.org)
 Athanasius of Alexandria, On the Incarnation, (https://www.ccel.org/ccel/athanasius/incarnation.viii.html)