Message from Sunday

First Reformed Church of Little Falls, NJ

                          “’Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,’ which means, ‘God is with us.’” We marvel this morning, the first morning of Advent, at our most unique of articles of faith: that the Trinity sent one of the persons of God to become flesh and blood, to be with us, in all of the many ways that it is possible to be with humankind. Jesus was with us in that he came into the world by way of a womb, wherein his flesh was knit from the flesh of a woman; he was with us in that he existed in a certain context of time and space and culture, as we also must; he was with us in that he formed bonds of love and friendship with those he lived with, traveled with, ate with; he was with us in that he felt pain and bled and died, as must be our common experience. No part was left out—there were no ways of being with us in which Jesus was not with us.

             The Gospel writer Matthew brings this up because it is part of his modus operandi in building his case to the Jewish world that Jesus is the true Messiah, the one long looked for, the one long awaited. You see that Matthew is kind of quoting something here; what he is quoting is from Isaiah chapter 7, written thousands of years prior, popularly taken as a prophecy regarding the mark of the Messiah. Who will be the Messiah? How will we know when he arrives? --the Jewish people asked themselves often. Well, we can’t tell much about it, they answer themselves, but one thing we know is that he will be brought into the world by a young woman, maybe even a virgin, Isaiah said so. Matthew the Gospel writer is thus able to make this claim on paper, on papyrus—Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, the Emmanuel. To make sure that even his non-Jewish readers can understand the significance of this word, he provides a translation: “Emmanuel means ‘God is with us.’”

 Matthew wants no one to miss the radical claim that in Jesus, God came to be with us in a new and unexpected way, that he is the one long looked for, that the prophecies are complete in him, it all adds up, and that no one else has to be waited for.

     That Jesus is Emmanuel, God with us, is the idea that for Matthew the Gospel writer is Alpha and Omega. In chapter one, Matthew asserts that Jesus is God with us, and in the final sentence of Matthew, Jesus reminds his disciples that he is “with you always, to the end of the age.” The declaration of God-with-us in this Gospel, then, form its bookends, embracing all that happens in between—every sermon, every healing, every death, every miracle, everything. Chapter 1: “The child is Emmanuel, God with us.” Chapter 28: “Remember, I am with you always.”

That means, sisters and brothers, that in just the same way, God is the Emmanuel of our lives. That God is with us is a truth that is ever-present in every turn, a foundational belief that can be relied upon no matter what. Are we celebrating? God is with us in our joy. Are we suffering? Christ is the Emmanuel of our pain. Are we young? God is with us. Are we old? God is with us. Are we giving birth? God is with us. Are we dying? God is there.

There is no good news like this good news. The child that is to be born to us at the end of our time of waiting will be Emmanuel, God with us. No other God in the pantheon of gods does this—elects to come be with us on the soil of the earth, taking the good with the bad, taking the beautiful with the ugly. This is the incarnation. And there is no better reminder of Emmanuel than the feast of God that we are about to celebrate together; Christ is with us in the bread of his flesh, in the wine of his blood. God is with us in the hands that prepared this feast, and in the hands that will share it out.

So sisters and brothers in Christ, let the opening thought of our Advent season be that “the virgin shall conceive a bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel.” Which means, God is with us. Let us pray.

 

Lord, where would we be if you were not with us? Who would we be if you were not with us? We ask that you would show us your presence among us, around us, and with us in our waking and sleeping, in our work and rest, in our families and spheres. In Jesus’ name we pray, A        “’Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,’ which means, ‘God is with us.’” We marvel this morning, the first morning of Advent, at our most unique of articles of faith: that the Trinity sent one of the persons of God to become flesh and blood, to be with us, in all of the many ways that it is possible to be with humankind. Jesus was with us in that he came into the world by way of a womb, wherein his flesh was knit from the flesh of a woman; he was with us in that he existed in a certain context of time and space and culture, as we also must; he was with us in that he formed bonds of love and friendship with those he lived with, traveled with, ate with; he was with us in that he felt pain and bled and died, as must be our common experience. No part was left out—there were no ways of being with us in which Jesus was not with us.

             The Gospel writer Matthew brings this up because it is part of his modus operandi in building his case to the Jewish world that Jesus is the true Messiah, the one long looked for, the one long awaited. You see that Matthew is kind of quoting something here; what he is quoting is from Isaiah chapter 7, written thousands of years prior, popularly taken as a prophecy regarding the mark of the Messiah. Who will be the Messiah? How will we know when he arrives? --the Jewish people asked themselves often. Well, we can’t tell much about it, they answer themselves, but one thing we know is that he will be brought into the world by a young woman, maybe even a virgin, Isaiah said so. Matthew the Gospel writer is thus able to make this claim on paper, on papyrus—Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, the Emmanuel. To make sure that even his non-Jewish readers can understand the significance of this word, he provides a translation: “Emmanuel means ‘God is with us.’”

 Matthew wants no one to miss the radical claim that in Jesus, God came to be with us in a new and unexpected way, that he is the one long looked for, that the prophecies are complete in him, it all adds up, and that no one else has to be waited for.

     That Jesus is Emmanuel, God with us, is the idea that for Matthew the Gospel writer is Alpha and Omega. In chapter one, Matthew asserts that Jesus is God with us, and in the final sentence of Matthew, Jesus reminds his disciples that he is “with you always, to the end of the age.” The declaration of God-with-us in this Gospel, then, form its bookends, embracing all that happens in between—every sermon, every healing, every death, every miracle, everything. Chapter 1: “The child is Emmanuel, God with us.” Chapter 28: “Remember, I am with you always.”

That means, sisters and brothers, that in just the same way, God is the Emmanuel of our lives. That God is with us is a truth that is ever-present in every turn, a foundational belief that can be relied upon no matter what. Are we celebrating? God is with us in our joy. Are we suffering? Christ is the Emmanuel of our pain. Are we young? God is with us. Are we old? God is with us. Are we giving birth? God is with us. Are we dying? God is there.

There is no good news like this good news. The child that is to be born to us at the end of our time of waiting will be Emmanuel, God with us. No other God in the pantheon of gods does this—elects to come be with us on the soil of the earth, taking the good with the bad, taking the beautiful with the ugly. This is the incarnation. And there is no better reminder of Emmanuel than the feast of God that we are about to celebrate together; Christ is with us in the bread of his flesh, in the wine of his blood. God is with us in the hands that prepared this feast, and in the hands that will share it out.

So sisters and brothers in Christ, let the opening thought of our Advent season be that “the virgin shall conceive a bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel.” Which means, God is with us. Let us pray.

 

Lord, where would we be if you were not with us? Who would we be if you were not with us? We ask that you would show us your presence among us, around us, and with us in our waking and sleeping, in our work and rest, in our families and spheres. In Jesus’ name we pray, A