God’s purpose is to dwell with his people and his purposes cannot be thwarted. So Jesus was be born.

This was the Christmas Eve meditation from Trinity Community Church, December 24, 2015


When Joseph found out that Mary was pregnant before their wedding day, he decided to divorce her quietly. But an angel appeared to him in a dream and told him to marry her and said,

Matt. 1:20-23 “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

Matthew then explains:

22All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:

23“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall call his name Immanuel”

So which was it to be, Jesus or Immanuel?

To understand the relationship of these two names, let’s look at the second name first. Matthew points out, parenthetically, that the name Immanuel means “God with us” and so it does.

God has always wanted to be with his people. In the garden of Eden when the evening winds came and cooled off the heat of the day, God would come and walk in the garden with Adam and Eve. According to Genesis 3:8, after the fall, after sin came, Adam and Eve heard God walking and they hid themselves. Sin had broken this relationship with God.

When God delivered the nation of Israel from slavery in Egypt, his plan was to go with them to the land he’d promised to Abraham. In Exodus 25:8 God commanded Moses, “Let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell in their midst.”

But while Moses was on the mountain with God receiving the instructions for this sanctuary, the tabernacle, the people demanded another god and Aaron made a calf of gold for them to worship. Moses came down and dealt with the idol but when he returned to the mountain, God said to him,

Ex. 33:1-3 “Depart; go up from here, you and the people whom you have brought up out of the land of Egypt, to the land of which I swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, saying, ‘To your offspring I will give it.’ 2I will send an angel before you, and I will drive out the Canaanites, the Amorites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. 3Go up to a land flowing with milk and honey; but I will not go up among you, lest I consume you on the way, for you are a stiff-necked people.”

Sin had once again come between God and his people. Moses interceded and prevailed upon God on the people’s behalf, God would go with them but even then it was not as intended. The people didn’t trust God and according to Psalm 95:

10For forty years I loathed that generation
and said, “They are a people who go astray in their heart,
and they have not known my ways.”

God endured with them but it wasn’t the relationship he desired. Sin had once again disrupted it.

Once Israel had taken the land and King David had given them peace by defeating all their enemies around them, he desired to build God a temple as grand as the palace he’d lived in. That was to be his son’s Solomon’s job and when Solomon had built the temple he prayed in part:

1Kings 8:46-51 “If they [your people] sin against you—for there is no one who does not sin—and you are angry with them and give them to an enemy, so that they are carried away captive to the land of the enemy…if they turn their heart in the land to which they have been carried captive, and repent and plead with you…then hear in heaven your dwelling place their prayer and their plea…grant them compassion in the sight of those who carried them captive, that they may have compassion on them.

Even with the prospect of sin disrupting the relationship again, God’s glory filled the temple. And the temple was in middle of Jerusalem which was the capital of the nation. Once again, God was in the midst of his people. And once again, as Solomon understood, sin would disrupt it.

After Solomon died, the kingdom was torn in two again. The northern tribes set up their own gods to stem the flow of people south to Jerusalem worship in the temple. Eventually Assyria would come and carry away the unfaithful northern tribes. The southern tribes ran warm and cold with faithfulness to God and eventually Babylon could carry them away and destroy the temple. After 70 years the people would return and rebuild Jerusalem and the temple but the ark of the covenant and God’s glory would not return to it.

God’s purpose has been to dwell with his people and we all know that God’s purposes cannot be thwarted. So Jesus was be born. He will be Immanuel, God With Us. God will not visit a garden or confine his glory to a building, in the baby born to the virgin Mary, God will walk amongst his people. Jesus, the eternal Son of God, will take on himself human nature so that he can really dwell with his people.

But again, sin would attempt to disrupt the relationship. When confronted with God incarnate, people who love their own praise, killed him. The religious leaders fabricated charges against Jesus and turned him over to the military governor for execution.

Sin launched its most powerful attack against God’s presence with humanity: death. Jesus took the full force of sin’s mightiest blow and died. But in his death, he disarmed sin. In his resurrection he made it impossible for his relationship with his people to be ever be disrupted again.

Before his ascension he told his disciples, “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

According to Paul in 1 Thessalonians, at Jesus’ return we will “meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.”

In Revelation 21:3, when John saw a vision of the new heavens and the new earth he “heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God…’”

The other name, Jesus, means “Yahweh saves” and Jesus saved us from our sin so that we could be with him.

Christmas is the beginning of God permanently dwelling with his people by his defeat of the power of sin.

Jesus, the son of Mary and Joseph, truly is Immanuel, God with us, forever.

Merry Christmas.

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