Sunday, December 19, 2010

Emmanuel: God With Us !!

Sunday, December 19, 2010
Advent IV
Emmanuel: God With Us

How many of you have ever considered the meaning of your name? I have. Philip means Lover from the Greek word, Phileo. Some add “of horses” but I haven’t lived into that definition very well. The last encounter I had with a horse I was thrown from a 17 hand stallion as he ended a full gallop. He saw the fence coming up and didn’t think I was going to turn. I lost.

What’s in a name? Much it seems!!

“And you shall name Him Jesus for he will save his people from their sins”
And they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means “God is with us.”

Names play an important role in our lives. We pass on family names from generation to generation. Sometimes that is expected. People were amazed when Zachariah, the prophet and priest recovered his speech, at the naming of his son: HIS NAME IS JOHN: the Baptizer, the FORERUNNER, and cousin of Jesus. His name was given in obedience to a vision from God about John’s future work.

In African cultures, names are given because of a desired character or perhaps a significant event, around the birth of a child. And these names are native to the area or tribal tie. The names shape the person in many ways.

We in America can hardly buy that, since we name our kids after favorite movie stars or because we like the sound of a name. Sometimes we even name our children with a view to how the name will boil down in a nickname that they will be stuck with for the rest of their life!!

But the world over, names are still important, as they were in Biblical times and cultures.
So what’s in The Name? Jesus… EMMANUEL.

Jesus means Savior (literally “Jehovah is Salvation”) ; Emmanuel, God With Us.

These capture the essence and center of the mission and purpose of the life that they named. JEhovah Saves US! JESUS! Jesus is, … the Son of God, … the Savior of mankind, … God incarnate. That’s a lot to pack into a Name. You wonder why Satan has an all out attack going on on That Name?

America isn’t the only place where the Name of Jesus has fallen out of favor! A recent online report from Charisma Magazine says:

“Nearly all human-rights groups and Western government agencies that monitor the plight of Christians worldwide agree: Between 200 million and 230 million believers face daily threats of murder, beating, imprisonment and torture, and a further 350 million to 400 million encounter discrimination in areas such as jobs and housing. A conservative estimate of the number of Christians killed for their faith each year is around 150,000.

The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life reported during a conference last month on Christian persecution that Christians were “harassed” by government factors in 102 countries and by social factors, such as mob rule, in 101 countries.

The report, presented at the conference hosted by the European Parliament, stated: “Altogether, Christians faced some form of harassment in two-thirds of all countries,” or 133 nations.

A Pew Forum spokesperson told the Star that Christians face harassment in more countries “than any other religious group.” In yet clearer terms, the conference was told that “at least” 75 percent of all religious persecution in the world is directed against Christians.”
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The Name of Jesus is the most hated name across the world. Why? Because it is “the Only Name that is given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12) We live in a world that rejects that premise. Paul said of Jesus, in his letter to the Philippian Church: “God has given him a Name that is above every other name; and at the Name of Jesus, every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess, that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God, the Father!” (2: 9-11) We live in a world that refuses to BOW NOW, but it will … BOW LATER!

Let’s consider for a moment the import of the name, EMMANUEL. Three little words:

GOD - The Supreme of the Universe, the Creator, the Immortal and Only Wise, The All Knowing, All Seeing, Ever Present, All Powerful, Unchanging and Everlasting God.

That GOD – the God who IS that He IS, From before the beginning and who will be after the end – The Wholly Other – The Holy Lover --The Mighty God, Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace: THAT GOD!!

WITH - “to denote association in respect of situation or environment; hence, among; in the company of.” “Denotes a connection of friendship, support, alliance, assistance, countenance, etc; hence, on the side of.” (Hyper dictionary Online)

Of the disciples, it is told that the Jewish leaders “took note that these men had been with Jesus.” (Acts 4:13) It was obviously a life-changing association. And it still is! Jesus promised at the end, on the day He ascended to heaven: I will be WITH you, always, even to the end of the age.” (Mt 28:20) Being with Jesus, then and now, is the KEY to the life transformation we seek and that the world needs!!

US - Imagine it. US! That’s you and me. Not only was Jesus with the disciples, the heavy hitters, the A-Team, but He is with US. In all of our frailty and indecision, in all of our trials and tribulations, in all our sin and rebellion, Jesus is WITH US. US!

If you just stop and think about it, it will blow you away! GOD… WITH… US!!

And you need to know that this isn’t a passing phase with God. This is a settled decision, to the extent that He has been at it now for two-thousand plus years – and God showed this commitment for thousands of years before sending His Son, Jesus! This is a settled decision – a settled pattern of behavior by God! Paul tells us that “God was IN CHRIST, reconciling the world to Himself!” (2 Cor 5:19)

So what? So what is our response? Here in Advent – a few days from the celebration of his first advent, at Christmas on Friday evening and on Saturday.

What is our response?

Perhaps a good clue would be the response of those who knew of his first coming:
The shepherds and the Wise Men. They were led to the discovery – by different means and on different routes, but to the same destination. From different stations in life, but both came to be on bended knee at the feet of the manger bed of this Jesus, God With Us.

Like the Shepherds we have heard the revelation – perhaps not in the voices of the angels overhead – but in the words of the testimony of Jesus, the Bible. Like the Shepherds we must come and see this ONE – come and encounter HIM. Theirs took no less faith than ours… To believe a baby in a cattle stall, born in a barn, to peasant parents, a carpenter and his wife, was THE SON OF GOD. How can our faith need to be greater than theirs? All they did was obey the word of the host of angels, Go and See!

We are bid similarly, Come and see!! Come and encounter the living Son of God, Jesus the Christ, Emmanuel: God with us.

Like the Wise men, led by heavenly signs to the place where Jesus lay, we are led by the Spirit of Jesus, to encounter him today. Wise men, they say, still seek Him!

Are you wise? Are you seeking? If you seek, you will find Him. He is nearer than you think. He is after all … Emmanuel: God With Us!


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