“The Virgin will conceive and have a son, and they will call His Name Immanuel,” which means, “God with us.”
INI + AMEN.
God with us sounds wonderful. It’s a perfect Christmas card. But it’s not just some Christmas wish. It’s not just a nice sounding idea. It’s not something that’s pie in the sky. It’s not something we say, but we secretly know it’s not really true, at least not true enough to affect our actual—flesh and blood—day to day lives.
God doesn’t do things like that. He never gives nice sounding but empty words. He never talks about nice but meaningless ideas. We turn them into that. We highjack the Lord’s Word and Promises, we take control of what the Lord does, and we call the shots. We make Christianity all about ideas, ideas we have control of. We set up our answers, our feelings, our thoughts, our ideas, and they become our gauge for what God does for us.
By taking God and moving into the realm of ideas, we manipulate God. We’re living the devil’s lie. “You will be like God.” We set up all sorts of answers and reasons of why God’s with us and not against us. We also have all sorts of ways of thinking about HOW God’s with us. Just ideas again. God’s with me because my life’s good. God’s with me because I’m more nice than naughty. God’s with me because I think He is. Still ideas. Ideas we’ve got control over.
But ideas aren’t what’s real, and the reality is God never does anything meaningless. He never, ever speaks empty words. He doesn’t work in the realm of ideas, and even if He did, He calls the shots about everything. Not you. He’s God, after all.
“God with us” isn’t just some nice idea. It’s not just a nice cover for a Christmas card. It’s reality—flesh and blood reality. That’s what tonight’s story is all about. It’s what the children are going to tell you about in just a bit. How flesh and blood real is it? As real and true as I’m a real person talking to you right now. So let’s focus on the story for a bit.
How did Mary know “God with us”? It wasn’t an idea. Her womb! God was in her womb! Every kick, every hiccup, she knew. Joseph knew ”God with us” when He was holding the Christ child in his arms. The wisemen knew ”God with us” when they saw the Toddler Jesus face to face and fell down and worshiped Him, the Toddler God.
God with us is real, flesh and blood real. God with us is a person. “God with us” is the flesh and blood Jesus. There’s no other God with us than Him. You can’t have God with us without Him. Again, it’s not an idea. If you want God with us then you’ve got to have Jesus, actually have Him. Grasp hold of Him. Hear Him. Trust Him. Receive Him. Jesus alone is truly God with us.
You only have God with us Jesus only in the ways Jesus, God with us, promises. No ideas. Flesh and blood reality! Water and Word over your forehead. Forgiveness and preached Gospel bouncing against your eardrums. Body and blood in your mouth. That’s God with us. Not an idea. Real water, real sounds, real flesh and blood of Jesus all delivering God with us.
You can’t manipulate any of that. You can avoid it, but there God with us runs the show, not any of us. Thanks be to God! It’s all salvation. Real. Not an idea. Real hearing, real eating, real drinking. How much more God with us can you get? Well, this side of the Last Day, you can’t get any more God with us than that. On that Day you’ll be face to face with God with us.
God with us is Jesus. He is God, born of the Virgin Mary, who suffered and died for you under Pontius Pilate. Real birth. Real suffering. Real death. But He also “rose on the third day.” Real coming back to life. That’s really yours! Real death and resurrection in Baptism. Real forgiveness in Absolution. Real body and blood delivering God with us right into your mouth. There God with us is for you.
In those Gifts, you have faith toward God with us Jesus. In those Gifts, you don’t have self-justifying love that says “I know I’m not perfect, but…” In His Word and Gifts God with us delivers His self-sacrificing love into you so that you would have real forgiveness and real love that you deliver to the real people in your real day to day lives.
No sweet sounding idea. Real tangible Gifts given to you. The only sweet thing tonight is the children telling you the Christmas story. But it’s not just a nice sounding story. Real story for you. Real consequences for you. Real Jesus for you. Real God with us for you. On your forehead, in your ears, in your heart, soul, mind, and strength, in your mouth. Just like Jesus, God with us, promises.
INI + AMEN.