“Therefore, the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” Isaiah 7.14
I wanted to just take a moment to remind you that Jesus is also called Immanuel. This name simply means “God with us”. That is a loaded title and it is a reason for us to live confidently and joyfully today. Another way to translate this Immanuel would be “God for us”. Jesus came to claim me this morning and all is good between me and God. I hope you are living in that truth today as well. On Saturday and Sunday, we will gather and worship the Christ Child. We will consider and be amazed once again of the humility and grace of our Savior. We will be moved by the love and power of God that came to us in Bethlehem 2000 years ago. Jesus was never anything less than the King of All Kings and Lord over all. Yet…you could say His true and most majestic throne from which he would ultimately rule was a Roman Cross on which He died. This is a most amazing Story – Merry Christmas to you today because of Jesus! I also want to just give a quick reminder and encouragement for us to finish the year strongly in our financial giving. This is the last Sunday for 2016. Any other giving needs to be in the office or postmarked by January 31st. I am so thankful for all the ways you have served the Lord in 2016 but would ask you to consider one final financial gift to the ministries of Oak Hill. It has been such a privilege being your pastor through another year. Thank you for your service and faithfulness year after year.
God’s Peace to each of you,
I am old enough to have an appreciation for radio shows. This was back in the dark ages without cable TV, internet, cell phones or streaming anything! My personal entertainment center consisted of a small transistor radio kit I made with my dad’s help that I could get one radio station on, but what a great station it was - WCCO. That seems like it was just yesterday. I also have wonderful memories of our family driving down the road listening to CBS Radio Mystery Theater. I talked about it so much that, a number of years ago, for Christmas Barb bought me a set of recordings of the program that contained over 1000 episodes. When I listen to these I can close my eyes and imagine it’s 1972 and I’m sitting in the backseat of our old red VW bug.
Another radio show I enjoyed immensely actually had only 81 episodes but it still brings back plenty of pleasant memories. The host and writer of the show was a man with a glorious voice by the name of Paul Harvey. The premise was that a story would be told in a way that always had an interesting unfolding and then at a certain time the story would take a turn that was unique and surprising. After the story the episode would conclude with Harvey saying “And now you know the rest of the story.” I loved it!
This is a fitting lead in to the message for Sunday. Here we are in the glorious season of Advent and Christmas but our text is coming from Luke 22-23. The season properly points us to Bethlehem but our message for Sunday will bring us to the trial and crucifixion of the Christ child 33 years later. The Christmas celebration is only such incredibly Good News because of the Rest of the Story.
The message of Christmas cannot be told properly without telling the whole story. Any part of Jesus’ life removed from the entire revelation will be incomplete at best and more than likely it will be skewed to emphasize one aspect of Jesus against another, instead of it all united perfectly to deliver one amazing reality. God came for us to bring us back home! Jesus came for you and me.
The “Rest of the Story” will help us to understand that:
God’s love is perfectly paired with God’s perfection.
God’s justice is flawlessly joined to His mercy.
God’s omnipotence operates with a gentle tenderness.
God’s Sovereign rule isn’t compromised by individual responsibility.
The Grace of God comes to us with faultless holiness.
Jesus is fully God and fully man.
The Baby in the manger and the man on the Cross is the King of all Kings.
The list could go on and on but the point is that God not only invites us to know, but tells us it is imperative to know the rest of the Story. The Christmas Child came for you and the Cross. He entered the chaos of our world to bring peace. To know the whole story is to believe that Jesus came to set all of humanity free and isn’t that magnificent? As good as that universal invitation is I think to know the rest of the story is to know that he came for you individually. He is your Almighty Creator and your personal tender Savior. The rest of the story continues to be told today in your life!
Living in the Story,
One of the most beloved prophetic Christmas passages comes to us in Isaiah 9.
6 For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
7 Of the greatness of his government and peace
there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
with justice and righteousness
from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty
will accomplish this.
The immediate context of Isaiah delivering this prophecy is that the Israelites are under judgment because of their disobedience. The Assyrian oppressors are making life very tough on God’s people. As easy as it is to see what the Assyrian empire is doing to the nation of Israel it is vitally important to see that God is using this to bring His people back into an intimate relationship with Him.
Our loving God has used discipline to bring people back all through history. On our own we tend to drift away and claim that we are fine without God. He loves us too much to let that happen! Because of His great love there is discipline and refining that must take place. Our Heavenly Father does this because we so desperately need for Him to rule in our hearts and our minds. We also know that the heart of God pursues us to bless us and not to harm us. The full extent of His commitment is seen in these words from Isaiah.
He comes to us in gentleness – like a child – not like, but as an actual baby! That is amazing, mysterious and so very telling. God comes to us in tenderness and grace. He comes bearing gifts as He enters our situation. His name is Immanuel [Isaiah 7.14] which means “God with us”. How good is that?
We can be filled with Joy because this baby is our Savior and our King. The Christ Child comes to us filled with both grace and great power. He comes to us bringing all that we need to be healed and made whole. The birth of a child is naturally a time of celebration but in the case of Jesus we celebrate because this baby comes to set us free from the power of sin and death. The main thing to focus on is that He has chosen to come to us and not wait for us to come to Him when we have everything straight.
Come and celebrate the Son of God this Sunday who came for you. Many of Oak Hill’s children will also be sharing the Good News of Christmas at the worship service as they present a program entitled “Through the Eyes of a Child”. It will be a great morning!
See you Sunday,
Pastor Nick Mundis