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"God With Us" (Christmas Eve)

[Isaiah 7:10-14] Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz: 11 “Ask a sign of the Lord your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven.” 12 But Ahaz said, “I will not ask, and I will not put the Lord to the test.” 13 And he said, “Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary men, that you weary my God also? 14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

“God With Us”

Bear with me; I will give you a very short history lesson.

About seven hundred years before Christ, the Kingdom of Israel was a divided kingdom. The northern portion of the kingdom retained the name Israel, and was also called Ephraim. Its capital was Samaria. They were the bad half of the kingdom – idol worship, foreign alliances, and the like.

The southern portion of the kingdom was called by the name Judah. Its capital was Jerusalem. Judah was the less bad half of the kingdom – and sometimes outright good.

Seven hundred years before Christ is born, Ahaz is king in Judah. He is king in the capital, Jerusalem.

Things are not going well. The northern kingdom, Israel - Ephraim as it’s called in this chapter - has made an alliance with Syria, a great empire, to team up against King Ahaz in the south.

Ahaz and the people in Jerusalem hear of this alliance. They are scared. Isaiah says, “the heart of Ahaz and the heart of his people shook as the trees of the forest shake before the wind.” [Isaiah 7:2]

Their enemy – this alliance of Syria and Ephraim – is an enemy greater than their strength to oppose it.

God will give assurance. God commands Ahaz to ask for a sign as the sign proving that God will be faithful to Judah and will deliver him from this enemy alliance.

Ahaz is afraid on the one hand, but on the other hand he stubbornly refuses to receive this comfort God is giving. “I won’t ask for a sign,” he says. It was weak to need this sign. God rebukes Ahaz and says, nevertheless, a sign will be given.

Death – and your own faults, your sins – and the devil who is against – form an alliance against you. Sin in me, the devil against me, and death which is bound to come, are enemies stronger than my strength to oppose them.

Yet - you and I - our heart’s first reaction is to resist receiving this very sign, this very help, God has given us.

You don’t want the problem in you, but somehow even more, you don’t want to embrace the solution, the Savior, which God has given you. But that Savior is born, and now God is with us.

God promised King Ahaz that He would not allow this enemy alliance to be the end of Judah. Instead, these enemies will become like two smoldering stumps [Isaiah 7:4]. God gave this sign to King Ahaz as a stamp to seal the promise: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”

Perhaps some child was born in Ahaz’s day. Perhaps Ahaz took this strange promise to mean that in the short time it takes for a son to come, God’s promise will be fulfilled. Perhaps the sign made little or no sense to Ahaz. But this promised sign is for us.

God’s concern isn’t nations. God’s concern is all that - in you and out of you - by your fault and by the fault of others – all that which allies together for your destruction. By this sign promised in Ahaz’s day, now born for us, nothing which today assails you will be your ruin.

The sign promised to Ahaz back then is the baby born seven hundred years later – the Son born of the Virgin – the Son born in Bethlehem who delivers us from our true enemies – sin, death, and the devil.

God said then, “I will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son.” The angels said to the Shepherds the night Jesus was born, “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.” [Luke 2:11-12]

The sign is given. The Son is born. And a name for this Son – this Son, Jesus – a name, a title, given for this Son through the prophet Isaiah is this name: “Immanuel.”The virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”

“Immanuel” means “God With Us”. This Child born is “God Who Is now With Us”.

There is a God. There is sin. There is death. And there is a day coming when we do give an account for what we have done in the body. None are innocent, but this day can only bring judgment. It will be your undoing. But now God is with you.

In the Child born, God became man to save man. God put on Himself your human nature to redeem it. God, without sin, was born one of us sinners to save those who have sinned.

The Child born purified human nature in Himself that from Him you may be born again of a new nature. You are born of Him in your Baptism. He is now and always with you and you with Him. He is with you also in His Word preached. He is with you in His Supper.

This Child born that night grew to take up your sins and your death on His cross. There, the Child born died for you. There, the judgment for your sins fell upon Him.

The Child born was born that all which is allied against you might fall upon Him. These are not enemies too powerful for Him. By His resurrection, He conquers.

This Child born is God incarnate, God who is now the “God With Us” – “God With Us”, “Immanuel” - your Savior from the alliance against you. Therefore, do not ever be afraid, but instead receive here the Help of the God with You. Amen.

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