- Reconciled: God with Us
- Isaiah 7:14; Luke 2
- Lyndol Loyd December 29, 2020
Reconciled: God with Us
It’s just a tremendous honor to be able to welcome all of you, to be celebrating part of your Christmas with you. Especially if you are visiting with us, I just want you to know how glad we are that you’re here.
I want to talk about a single verse in the Christmas story, about really just one single, very powerful little word in that verse. It was actually a promise made by the prophet Isaiah a long time earlier when he said in Isaiah 7:14, “The young woman will be with child…” That’s Jesus. “…and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel,” which means God with us.
The little word I want to talk about is the word WITH. Not God above us or even God all around us but God with us.
The reason it’s so powerful is from when we’re really little. We all know that part of the human experience means being alone. Nobody wants to admit being lonely, but nobody wants to be that kid in the school cafeteria who is eating all by himself.
There is a scene in the movie Forrest Gump that portrays this perfectly. Remember when Forrest gets on the school bus, and nobody wants to let Forrest sit by them. Everybody says, “This seat is taken.” You feel the pain of his being alone until a little girl named Jenny says, “You can sit next to me.” Then, he’s not alone anymore. Then, he experiences what it is to have someone “with him”, and Jenny is like an angel to him.
If you think about it, Christmas is all about being with: being with friends, being with family, going to holiday parties, sending out Christmas cards. 2020 has put a very real wrinkle in our ability to be with people.
In today’s world people are all about making posts of their highlight reel moments on social media giving the impression that their holiday experiences are all amazing and maybe they are amazing. But somehow I cannot help but wonder how many people see those posts and compare them to their own lives and end up feeling even lonelier.
Yet, for a lot of people who have gone through a loss or a breakup or an illness or depression or who can’t have any children are who are looking for a relationship or, maybe for some reason they don’t even know, Christmas is often the loneliest time of the year. Maybe it is for you?
Sometimes we think our loneliness is something another person could take away from us, and, if we’re still lonely at Christmas, it just means we have not found the right person to be with yet.
A theologian by the name of Elvis Presley, maybe you’ve heard of him, put it like this: “I’ll have a blue Christmas without you,” but there is a kind of aloneness that is so deep no other mere human being can ever take it away.
Some of the most influential thinkers in the last century have argued that loneliness is an inevitable human condition. Jean-Paul Sartre, the philosopher said, “the reason we’re lonely is that we are meaning seeking creatures, but we live in a meaningless world.”
The biologist scientist, Richard Dawkins, wrote a few years ago the reason we’re lonely is that the universe offers no design, no purpose, and no hope, just blind, pitiless indifference.
Now, the story of Christmas is a claim that things are not that way, that you were made by God and God actually hates loneliness. God says, “It’s not good for people to be alone.” God doesn’t want anybody sitting at the table by themselves in the cafeteria.
In fact, a CENTRAL THEME of the Bible is God’s desire to be with people. In fact, an Old Testament scholar counted 114 times in the Hebrew Scriptures alone where God says, “I will be with you.”
Be not afraid. You don’t have to go through life feeling lonely. He gives them all of these pictures of his presence with people and has them build a temple that’s like his house and says, “I will be with you to hear your prayer. I will be with you to receive your worship. I will be with you to give you guidance. I will be with you through the Scriptures.”
It’s almost like all of that is not enough to satisfy God, so finally he says, “I know what I’m going to do. I’m going to go down there and be with those people myself.” That’s Jesus. That’s Christmas, when the biggest miracle of all is also the smallest – Jesus Christ, the Savior of the World, born to us as a baby.
God causes all of his person, all of his presence, all of his majesty, and all of his power to be condensed and to be compacted into one fragile, frail, little human body. He goes down to earth to be with people starting with this peasant, impoverished girl named Mary and her family.
Because Jesus is Immanuel, God with us, that word, with, really becomes Jesus’ signature word if you know much about him.
In the Bible at the beginning of his ministry, we’re told that Jesus takes a motley crew of fishermen and tax collectors, and Jesus appointed 12, designating them apostles that they might be with him. There’s that word again.
Later, we’re told the authorities were so struck by the power of being with Jesus on the disciples that when they realized these were unschooled, ordinary men they were astonished and took note they had been with Jesus.
Jesus is with beggars and lepers and foreigners and prostitutes and enemy soldiers. One time they called Jesus the friend of sinners, and they intended it as an insult, but for him it was like a badge of honor.
That little word, WITH, is kind of what got Jesus killed because he kept hanging out with the wrong people (scandalous people) and religious authorities hung him on a cross, and he died.
Then, three days later he was resurrected. At the very end of Jesus time on Earth, that little word “WITH” comes back up. In the last promise Jesus makes to his friends in Matthew 28:20, he says, “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Jesus says, “I am with you.”
People wonder, “How could Jesus be with people if he is not present bodily?” Well, being with someone is about much more than just physical proximity. In fact, some people can have their bodies at the same table with you, but their presence, their attention, their mind, and their soul is a million miles away. We call these people husbands.
What Jesus is saying is that, now, having become human and being crucified and resurrected, he is no longer restricted by a body like you and I are, so he can be present with anybody, and he can be with you, and he wants to be with you. That’s the personal message of Christmas.
Tomorrow morning, try this when you wake up. You can just say, “Be with me, Jesus,” and he will. He can be with you in your thoughts. He can be with you when you go to work. He can be with you in your family. He can be with you in your pain. He can be with you in your hopes. He can be with you through other people.
Scripture says, “Particularly to the least of these (the poor, the sick, the imprisoned, and the forgotten) Jesus is right there.” The sustaining power of the unseen presence of God has made the weak strong.
Down through the centuries it has made the deathbed a place of triumph. It has brought hope to people in their old age. It has brought courage to people who are desperate. It has brought freedom to people who are addicted and couldn’t get free any other way.
It turns out that our loneliness is kind of a clue about who we are. Just like the fact that we hunger indicates that we were made to eat and the fact that we thirst indicates that we were made to drink, our loneliness tells us we were made for God and to be with God.
There is an old Beatles song called “Eleanor Rigby.” It asks this haunting question: “All the lonely people, where do they all come from? All the lonely people, where do they all belong? The answer is, “They are people who live apart from this God and apart from his love.”
The apostle Paul describes it like this. There are people without hope and without God in the world, and the good news of Christmas is you don’t have to go through life that way. You can ask Jesus to be WITH you on this Christmas.
What a great time to do it! You can ask him to forgive you of the wrongdoing, the stuff you’re embarrassed about, the sin, the flaws that make us all hide from each other and make us isolated and make us feel so lonely, and give you a fresh start with his forgiveness.
Maybe you’re already a Christian and you’ve known God for a while, but he has felt far away for some time. You can begin all over again with him right now and make space for him in your everyday life. You can get help for this because there is another “with” promise from Jesus right in the middle of the gospel of Matthew.
Jesus says, “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” That’s an amazing promise. He actually has a plan for loneliness, and his plan is that those of us who follow him would create a community that is really kind of a family that would embrace anybody who needs to be loved, because God hates it when anybody sits alone at the cafeteria table.
It’s very ironic to me that in our day, as modernization increases, poverty and illiteracy and disease are all going down. But, guess what. Loneliness is going up.
Loneliness is a much bigger problem than researchers even thought. Three out of every four Americans right now are suffering from loneliness. Loneliness is so epidemic in Great Britain…some of you have read about this…that the UK has appointed a cabinet-level government position called Minister of Loneliness to try to address this problem.
A whole field of treatment has emerged in psychology called pet therapy. Numerous studies have shown the presence of animal companions can lessen the pain of isolation.
Do a quick Google search and you will find that there has been an incredible boom in pet adoptions since last March when the Covid-19 pandemic started to really take root here in America. It just goes to prove that we buy dogs or cats or rabbits or even goldfish to reduce loneliness because we’re a lonely people. Over the last 30 years the number of Americans’ close friends in whom they can confide has dropped 50 percent.
Then, you throw in something like the pandemic that has rattled so many people this year. People wonder, “Where is God? What do I do?”
Jesus had this plan that when difficulties come, like the many people have experienced this past year. For instance when a family loses a child or an aging person battles an illness or somebody loses a job or somebody goes through a divorce or somebody feels rejected, nobody stands alone. This is family, and Jesus is right here in the middle of it, and he has very good news. This is the message of Christmas: God and sinners reconciled. Immanuel, God with you.
Would you pray together with me?
If you want to, you ask him right now to be with you just this simply. “Jesus, would you forgive my past, my regrets, my flaws, my brokenness, and the mess I’ve made and would you give me a new heart and a clean start? Be my Savior and my leader.” He will do that. He loves doing that for people. He will do that for you.
Jesus, I thank you that you are here, and I pray right now for every need of every person listening to me. I pray for every aching or broken or empty heart. I pray for the life of every person, young or old, that you would be Immanuel, God with us, to everyone. I pray this in Jesus’ name and ask that in this holy moment you would receive now our worship and our wonder and our adoration and our praise and shower this room with hope and love. In Jesus’ name, amen.