Bread – Immanuel

December 12, 2014


Readings for Friday, December 12, 2014, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Isa. 7:10-25; 2 Thess. 2:13-3:5; Luke 22:14-30; Psalms 31,35

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From our reading in Isaiah – “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call His name Immanuel.” Isa. 7:14

“Immanuel” means “God is with us.”

I grew up reading this passage as a prophesy of the coming of Christ incarnate into the world, born of a virgin, at a time which we celebrate in a couple of weeks called “Christmas.” In the midst of our need for a Savior since we, who live in sin and are therefore spiritually dead, cannot save ourselves. God’s sovereign act in sending Himself to earth is truly Immanuel, God is with us. I always understood it this way, until I was presented with an alternate reading in this passage.

See, there are group of Biblical scholars who hold that Isaiah is not speaking to Christ’s coming in the far term, but to Isaiah’s listeners of events to come in the near term. They argue, based upon textual analysis, that fulfillment of this sign occurred in Isaiah’s day. From this perspective and to integrate Matthew’s description of the passage, these persons often adopt a “both” strategy – that the prophesy has a double fulfillment, once in Isaiah’s day and another with the birth of Christ. I think there are a number of problems with this analysis, but then again I am no Biblical scholar. However, I find good company in the gospel of Matthew, where Matthew quotes this Scripture and says “All this [the birth of Jesus] took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet [Isaiah]:…” Matt. 1:22. So, I am sticking with my belief that this statement by Isaiah of the coming of Immanuel points to Christmas, the birth of Jesus Christ, the Messiah.

But so what? Immanuel (God is with us) occurred in history, at the birth of Jesus.

Now you may well say “Wait a minute!,” “Yes, Jesus died, but He rose again and is standing at the right hand of God, interceding for us.” But does this mean that God is with us or in heaven, at the right hand of God?

Most people reading this are becoming very uncomfortable right now, and you should. You should because I am getting very close to how we actually behave on a daily basis. Do we behave today like “God is with us” or that God is remote, that He was then (when He was born and died) or He is there (in heaven, beside the Father).

If Immanuel, God is with us, then He is not remote in time or space, He is present here and now.

If you believe that God is here and now, then why don’t you act like it?

If Immanuel, then our sin is an immediate affront to God, not something which is postponed to when He comes back to earth and not something which is delayed in the report until the angel can whisper it in His ear.

If Immanuel, our failure to pray, to talk to Him, and to be with Him is an immediate rejection of Him, not something which is OK because He is “over there.”

If Immanuel, our failure to step out in faith in the direction He leads is a present, immediate statement of lack of trust, of unbelief in Him.

You get the point. Immanuel is either true or it is not. Because if l God is with us, then He is not not with us. He is either one or the other. He is either present in time and space or He is remote in either or both. He is either an ever present help in time of trouble or He is sometimes, when He is in the area.

Our third reading today from Luke is Christ instituting Holy Communion (the bread and the wine, “Do this in remembrance of Me.”). Luke 22:14-20. Here, as we drink and eat in accordance with His command, we experience Immanuel.

But if Immanuel, then we don’t have to wait for Communion. Immanuel exists in our prayers, in our hope, in our trust, in our obedience, in our relationship with Christ and each other, in our love, in our life and in our death. It exists in our trouble and our victory. It exists in the morning, throughout the day, in the evening, and throughout the night. It exists 24x7x365.

If Immanuel, then it exists all the time, everywhere, in all circumstances.

So when we celebrate Christ’s birthday, we are not celebrating a one-time event of Immanuel. We are celebrating Immanuel every day of our lives when Christ has deemed to save us.

Every day is Immanuel when Christ is ours. Christmas may be special, but it is not the only day of Immanuel.

Come, Let us adore Him. Not just on Christmas, but always. Immanuel. Thank you, God.

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© 2014 GBF

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