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Isaiah 9:67; Matthew 1:1825comment (0)

December 20, 2012

By Michael Wilson

Related Scripture: Isaiah 9:67

Bible Studies for Life 
Director, Resource Center for Pastoral Excellence, Samford University


Isaiah 9:6–7; Matthew 1:18–25
Most of us bemoan how our culture’s over-commercialized, secular observance of Christmas detracts from its true meaning. 

Each year we grumble and complain about the frenetic pace leading up to Christmas Day. Finding the right gifts, attending social gatherings at church and with friends, arranging travel, even attending a Christmas Eve service add to our stress during this time of year. 

If we are honest with ourselves, we have to acknowledge that only for brief moments have we slowed our frenetic pace in recent days to ponder again the momentous meaning of Jesus’ birth. The story seems simple enough. But Christians understand this birth represents something of life-changing significance. This week’s lesson calls us to pause and ponder Jesus the Immanuel, God with us.

Jesus Our Immanuel Was Promised (Isa. 9:6–7)
Isaiah’s prophecy of a Messianic King in the line of David follows strong words of gloom and doom regarding God’s judgment. “They will see only distress and darkness, the gloom of anguish; and they will be thrust into deep darkness” (Isa. 8:22). The “former time” of God’s judgment for unrighteousness will pass. In the “latter time” there will be restoration and a return to joyful living as God’s chosen people. The darkness about which Isaiah speaks represents despair and oppression the people felt at the hands of the Assyrians, God’s agents of judgment. Yet, the prophet declares a word of hope for a future time. In those days, darkness will be replaced by light. Gloom and despair will be replaced with joy. Just as God brought light and order from darkness and chaos at creation, God will bring the light of joy and hope and redemption to replace the darkness of oppression and sin and judgment. The promise of a birth, a child in the family line of the great King David, will signal the arrival of this new time. This Messianic King’s royal “throne names” describe a wise, powerful, consistent presence that brings peace in anxious times when things seem to be out of control.

Jesus Our Immanuel Saves (Matt. 1:18–21)
At creation, the Spirit was the agent of God’s life-giving, purposeful activity turning formless, dark, chaos into earth and sky and living things. The Spirit again served as the agent of God’s purposeful activity, but now in the lives of people. God’s creative, redeeming activity on behalf of humanity came through an ordinary peasant girl and her righteous fiancé. “You will call his name Jesus.” The name is taken from the Hebrew names Yeshua or Yeshu, which are other forms of the name Joshua. “Yahweh saves” is one way to interpret the name. The name choice was not about identification. The name was chosen because its meaning clearly connects Jesus to His mission in God’s plan to bring about the salvation of humanity.

Jesus Our Immanuel Is ‘God with Us’ (Matt. 1:22–25)
The Old Testament emphasizes the holiness of Yahweh. God is considered above all things and set apart from ordinary daily lives of sinful humanity. This idea shows in the design of the temple. Space known as the Holy of Holies was symbolic of the presence of God. Yet, it was inaccessible to all but the high priest and then only once a year on the Day of Atonement.

In Jesus, our Immanuel, God identified with broken humanity in a new way, one that we can understand. God in Christ experienced challenges and joys of human life. Jesus learned firsthand about the power of evil and broken, hopeless humans. 

Immanuel means God is not an abstract, cosmic force. God is personal and fully engaged in relationship with us.

“Immanuel” truly is the first and greatest gift of Christmas.

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