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Sunday, December 24, 2006

Matt's Messages - Christmas In Two Words

“Christmas in Two Words”
Christmas Eve Worship Celebration
December 24, 2006
Matthew 1:18-25

Put yourself in Joseph’s shoes.

Matthew tells the story of Jesus’ birth from the manly perspective of a perplexed guy named Joseph. As I read it, imagine what he must have felt. Matthew chapter 1, starting in verse 18.

[Scripture Reading, Prayer]

Imagine how Joseph must have felt!

Joseph thought that he and his folks had found the perfect girl to be his wife. And he had all but married her. In their culture, the betrothal was as binding as marriage, it just wasn’t yet publically celebrated and privately consummated.

And then this happened!

“She was found to be with child...” (V.18) Mary was showing. And he knew it wasn’t his. It couldn’t be! How embarrassing. How shameful.

Righteous Joseph had a difficult choice to make. Should he raise a stink and have her disgraced and destroyed?

Or should he divorce her quietly and show compassion?

Of course, it would be unthinkable to marry her! That would send the message that he hadn’t waited either and the child was his after all. He would be admitting and taking responsibility.

But good old Joseph was both righteous and compassionate. He decided to do a private divorce and then try to pick up the pieces of his ruined reputation.

But that night, after he made his decision and put his head on the pillow–Joseph had a visitor!

An angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream.

And what that angel said made all of the difference in the world to Joseph.

The angel announced the coming of Christmas.

In fact, the angel told Joseph the essential meaning of Christmas in two key words.

“Christmas in Two Words.”

If someone was to ask you what Christmas is all about, what would you say?

What if you only had time to give them 2 words? What would they be?

Presents and Family?
Trees and Cookies?
Santa and Snow?
Tinsel and Eggnog?

This angel told Joseph the essential meaning of Christmas in two key words, really two names of Christ: Jesus and Immanuel.

Christmas in Two Words.

First, JESUS. Look at verse 20.

“[A]n angel of the Lord appeared to [Joseph] in a dream and said, ‘Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife [there is no disgrace here], because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. [God is doing something special, something miraculous, something holy!] She will give birth to a son [an angelic ultrasound!], and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.’”

Christmas is coming and it’s coming in the form of a little baby, a son.

And this son is to have the name Jesus.

Now if you have the New International Version, it has a footnote for the name “Jesus” in verse 21. We are used to the name Jesus, but we don’t always recognize what it meant in the original language.

The NIV footnote says, “Jesus is the Greek form of Joshua, which means the LORD saves.” That’s why the angel says, “give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

Jesus Means God Saves His People.

This little boy who is going to be born will be a savior. He will be a deliverer.

He will be a rescuer.

Jesus Means God Saves His People.

That’s what Christmas is all about–a Savior has come.

A savior from what?

From the oppression of the Romans?

What does it say (v.21)?

“He will save His people from their sins.”

Did you know that your greatest enemy is not Osama bin Ladin?

Did you know that your greatest enemy is not Satan, the enemy of God?

No. Your and my greatest threat to our ternal joy is ourselves and our sin.

Our sin separates us from God and makes us His enemies.

Our sin, our breaking of His law and falling short of His glory, ruins our relationship with God and makes us His enemy.

And there is nothing you and I can do about it.

We are, by nature, dead in our transgressions and sins.

And dead people can’t earn their way back.

We can’t rescue ourselves. We can’t bring ourselves to life.

But God in His mercy has sent a Savior for us!

And His name is Jesus. “God saves His people.”

Here’s how He did it. Jesus lived a perfect life. He never sinned. He lived in perfect obedient communion with His heavenly Father.

And then one day, He took on our sin for us. And He died in our place on the Cross.

The Bible says, “Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God” (1 Peter 3:18).

And then three days later, He came back from the dead to give us forgiveness of sins and new life!

The point of Christmas is Good Friday.

The point of Christmas is Easter.

The angels said to the shepherds, “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you. He is Christ the Lord.”

Jesus Means God Saves His People.

Two points of application:

#1. Trust Jesus to Save You From Your Sins!

Jesus came to save, and He invites you to trust Him today.

The Bible says that to those who receive Him, to those who believe in His name, He gives the right to become children of God.

It is not automatic. It requires repentance and faith and our part.

You cannot earn this salvation, but you must receive it by faith.

Have you come to trust in Jesus as your Savior?

Many people think that they will be saved because they have done good things or been a reasonably good person.

But you can’t save yourself any more than you can jump across the United States in single bound.

You must be rescued by the Savior.

You must trust in Him and what He did on your behalf on the Cross.

Some people think that they will be saved because they have gone to church every Christmas and every Easter for the last 75 years.

But going to church doesn’t make you a saved person any more than living in a garage makes you a car.

You yourself must turn from your sins and trust the Savior and His Saving work on your behalf.

Some people think that they will be saved because their parents or grandparents are Christians and they were raised to know what is right.

But God has no grand-children. Only children. And the only ones who are His children are those who have received Him by faith. Is that you?

Trust Jesus to Save You From Your Sins.

Right where you are. Tell Him right now that you need Him and that you want Him to be your Savior and your Lord.

You will be eternally grateful.

And that’s the second application.

#2. Thank Jesus For Saving You From Your Sins!

Many many of us here today are Christians. And we need to remember that the greatest gift ever given at Christmas was the gift of our salvation.

This year, we learned a new worship song at Easter: Jesus, Thank You.

Your Blood Has Washed Away My Sin
Jesus, Thank You
The Father’s Wrath Completely Satisfied
Jesus, Thank You

Once Your Enemy, Now Seated At Your Table
Jesus, Thank You

That is a Christmas song!

We can’t forget that the baby in the manger didn’t come to be ooh and ahhed over.

He came to die for us.

“Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God” (1 Peter 3:18)

Jesus Means God Saves His People from Their Sins.

Have you thanked God for this gift today? We should be the most thankful people at Christmastime!

The angel told Joseph that Mary was going to have a son and they were to give Him the name, “Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

But that’s not all!

This was a fulfillment of an ancient prophecy. V.22

“All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: ‘The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel’–which means, ‘God with us.’”

IMMANUEL.

Matthew does the translating for us here. He says Immanuel means “God with us.”

And this was prophesied 800 years before Jesus was born in the book of Isaiah, chapter 9, verse 14.

“The virgin (that’s Mary) will be with child (that’s a miracle!) and will give birth to a son (Jesus), and they will call him ‘Immanuel’–which means ‘God with us.’”

And that’s the essential meaning of Christmas.

Immanuel Means God Is With His People.

Jesus Means God Saves His People.
Immanuel Means God Is With His People.

It’s absolutely incredible!

Jesus Christ was not just an earthly savior who came to deliver people from their sins.

Jesus Christ was (and is!) God Himself come to Earth in human form!

We sang about it this morning:

Veiled in Flesh, the Godhead See
Hail, the Incarnate Deity (“incarnate” means “in the flesh”)
Pleased as Man With Men to Dwell
Jesus, Our Immanuel

You see, Immanuel wasn’t his name like Jesus was.

It is a word, a title, to describe the essence of Who Jesus was.

He was God With His People.

Think for a second about what that means:

It means that God has walked on Earth as a man.

It means that He understands everything that we humans go through–experientially!

It means that because he was God He could infinitely pay for our sin debt against an infinite holy God. In other words, because He was Immanuel He could be Jesus–our Savior.

It means that God could reveal Himself fully in language we understand–the language of humanity, of personal experience, of human love and sacrifice.

It means that ours is a “visited planet.” We are not alone. There is a Creator who made us and cares about us. Life is not meaningless.

It means that humanity is not just a insignificant class of primates wandering around aimlessly on this planet. Instead we are a significant class of beings, created in the image of God, and blessed by our Creator's humility to take our form. We among the creatures of the universe have a dignity that is unheard of, because God became one of us. Because God was with us!

Do you feel alone this Christmas Season?

Christmas is often a hard time for people. Winter has come. It gets darker earlier. Financial burdens pile up. People get lonely. We miss loved-ones who have died.

Do you feel alone this Christmas Season?

You are not alone if you know Immanuel.

The most important person in the universe is with you. And for you.

You are not alone.

God is with you.

Immanuel.

Application?

#3. Live Like God Is Truly With You!

Because He is.

I know many Christians who live no differently than the other people around them.

They live in fear.
They live in anxiety.
They live in anger.
They live in attack mode.
They live in gossip mode.
They live in lying mode.
They live in impurity.
They live in foolishness.

I know, because I have lived there many times myself.

We often live as if God was not with us.

We live in defeat and discouragement and denial.

But we don’t have to.

Immanuel!

God is with us!

God is here.

God has saved us through His Son.

We can live differently!

We can live as though God were with us because Immanuel has come.

We don’t have to live in anger or fear.
We don’t have to live in impurity or anxiety.
We don’t have to live in bitterness or gossip.
We don’t have to live in foolishness.

We can live differently!

We can live as though God were with us because Immanuel has come.

We can live in joy.
We can live in peace.
We can live in increasing harmony with others.
We can live in hope.
We can live in edifying speech.
We can live in wise choices.

Because God is with us.

And if God is with us, who can be against us?

My friend, Dan Ledford, is a great encourager. I am always picked-up when I’m around him. My spirits are always lifted.

And Dan is also someone who goads me on to holiness. I can’t wallow in my sin when I am around him. Both by example and admonishment, Dan goads me on to personal change.

Do you know someone like that who just by being around them, you are encouraged and moved towards joy and holiness?

Well, what about the fact that God is with you?

What difference it would make if we actually lived out the truth of Christmas–Jesus has saved us and God is with us!

Live Like God Is Truly With You!

Remind yourself every day, maybe every hour that God is with you.

My best friend Kipp used to put little notes around his office and his home that said simply, “God Is Here.”

That’s what Jesus’s birth means to us. Immanuel.

God is here.

And we need to live like it.

Last night, I got angry with the kids. One of them hit another of them while they were in the shower together. And in trying to get the fight broken up and get them cleaned up and dressed one of them threw up! This always seems to happen on Saturday nights!

And I didn’t handle it very well. I yelled at them (and not constructively!). All of them. Even the ones that weren’t in the room.

And I stormed around the house with a ugly look on my face–because my will was not being done.

When I got back to my office last night to put the finishing touches on this sermon, I thought, “What if I had taken one breath of prayer when that all happened and I said to myself what I’m going to say to the people? Immanuel. God is here. How differently could I have responded?”

Friends, we need to live like God is truly with us. Because in Jesus, He is!

What practices could you put in place this Christmas week to remind you of Immanuel?

God is With His People.

One more application of both of these names.

#4. This Christmas, Tell Others about Jesus, Our Immanuel.

Joseph woke up from his dream. He obey God and did what the angel said to do. He took Mary home as his wife, absorbing the shame that would naturally come from that.

And he abstained until she gave birth to the son–which we will celebrate tonight. And he adopted the boy and gave him the name Jesus.

What the angel said made all the difference in the world to Joseph.

The angel said two words: Jesus and Immanuel.

And that made all the difference in the world to Joseph.

And it makes all the difference in the world to you and me.

And it will make all the difference in the world to those you tell!

Tell Others About Jesus, Our Immanuel.

Friends, Neighbors, Co-Workers, Family, and Strangers.

Everyone needs to hear this message.

Everyone needs to hear the essential meaning of Christmas: Jesus, Our Immanuel.

God Saves His People.
God Is With His People.

Rusty Mains (sitting right back there) showed up at our Men’s Breakfast at the Pumpkin House three weeks ago. And he was having a terrible time.

A lot of different trials had come into his life and he was responding with both fear and anger. (Don’t worry, I have his permission to tell his story!)

And Blair Murray picked up on Rusty’s distress and told him, “Meet me at Key Largo’s at 2pm.”

Rusty said that he would be there, and he was.

And Blair shared with Rusty the Gospel–the good news of how God saves sinners through birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, Our Immanuel.

And right there at Key Largo, Rusty prayed to receive Jesus as his Savior and Lord.

And he’s started on the path of following Jesus by faith.

What would have happened if Blair had not spoken up?

You can do that, too. You can tell people about Christmas in two words.

Jesus: God Saves His People.
Immanuel: God Is With His People.

This Christmas, Tell Others About Jesus, Our Immanuel.

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