God is With Us

Isaiah 7:14, Matthew 1:23

We’re in a series of messages this Christmas called THE GIFT: Unwrapping the Meaning of Christmas. And we’re taking a look in four… in three parts, “God for Us”, God with Us” and “God in Us.” And today “God with Us”. Take your Bibles, turn to Matthew chapter 1.

Now if you’ve ever been around the birth of a baby you’ve probably heard the words, “It’s time. The baby is on the way.” I know we’re on pins and needles at our household because our daughter Kelly, her husband Jason are about to have twins. Have I told you that? Sure, I have. So Jake and Zack are almost here. I always smile when I say that because it does really sound like double trouble. Jake and Zack are on their way, and we’re expecting anytime to get that text to say: “It’s time. They’re on their way.” And when the babies are born you’d better be ready.

Now when Debbie Stephens… Jarrett Stephens our Teaching Pastor’s wife… they were having their first child, they were sleeping actually downstairs instead of upstairs in the bedroom because they were getting ready. The baby was due and they had everything packed up and ready to go, and Jarrett was at least semi-planned and ready, so when… when the time came in the middle of one night, Debbie said to Jarrett, “Jarrett, I think it’s time.” Jarrett jumped up and passed out on the floor, out like a light! As he was coming to… Is this true or not?… It’s true. As he was coming to Debbie said, “Jarrett, get yourself together. I’ll go get the things and meet you at the car.” Jarrett only thought he was ready.

Now while I’m throwing Jarrett under the bus a little bit, I guess I ought to do myself in as well. At least Jarrett didn’t miss the birth of one of his children which I did. Our third child, Josh, now 31 years of age was born in April of 1983. And Deb was due but we’d been to the doctor and the doctor had said it was going to be several more weeks. Now that was important information because I’d been scheduled… we were living in West Palm Beach, Florida at that time. I’d been scheduled to fly up to Memphis and preach in a revival crusade there. And so I was ready to cancel… really was, and I said to the doctor, “Well I don’t need to go to Memphis. I need this cancel this meeting.” And he said, “No, you’ll be find. You’ll be find. She’s a couple weeks away.” Famous last words.

Ah… I went up to Memphis, got there, preached one night. The next day I get the call. It’s time! I rushed back to the airport in Memphis, get on a flight. And somewhere while I was in the air between Memphis and West Palm Beach, Florida Josh was born. And I got the information on a telephone.

Remember those big telephones they used to have on planes?  Airphones, or something like that? And, of course, we didn’t know in those days… we weren’t privy to the information boy or girl, and so we didn’t know boy or girl. So I remember hearing on the phone. Joanne Ross, my mother-in-law saying, “You have a son. Joshua is born.” And, of course, I was just celebrating on the plane and couldn’t wait to meet him. But I did miss the birth of my son. And I actually do regret that, of course. But I’m grateful that our babies were born and our grandbabies have been born, and I haven’t missed a thing since.

You don’t want to miss the birth of Christmas. A lot of people miss the birth of Jesus in all the celebration of Christmas. But I’m challenging you to put Christ in the center of your Christmas. God for us, God with us, and God in us.

I also heard about a lady who went to the hospital to have a baby. She and her husband got there. They were a little late getting there and so the baby was actually born in the elevator, trying to get to the delivery room. And the baby was fine, she was fine, the doctors were able to deliver the baby in the elevator. But later on a nurse was in tending to the mother and she said, “Oh, I’m just… I am so embarrassed.” She said, “what?” She said, “Having my baby in an elevator!” And the nurse, wanting to encourage her a little bit said, “Well, don’t feel so bad.” [She] Said, “There was a woman here two years ago trying to get here to deliver and she didn’t even make it to the elevator. She delivered those babies on the steps of the hospital.” To which the woman replied. “I know, that was me!” So when it’s time, it’s time!

The Bible says in the fullness of time, in the right moment, the exact time according to God’s own plan, God sent forth His Son Jesus Christ to be born of a woman into this world. And that time, the time of His birth divides all of history. BC and AD on the birth, the life, the death, the resurrection of Jesus Christ. In fact your birthday is based upon the birthday of the Lord Jesus.

God with us. And chapter one of Matthews tells us about His birth. Look beginning in verse 18:

18) Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way.

This is at the outset of the New Testament, the Gospels and Matthew gets right at it. He says, “This is how it happened.”

18) … When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19) And her husband Joseph, being a just man…

What a good man Joseph! What a good man. He’s often the neglected person at the Nativity. He’s sort of a stand in. But Joseph plays a central part. Thank God for his pure and holy life and the fact that he fathered as an earthly adoptive father the Lord Jesus Christ. But God the Father is the Father of Jesus because the Holy Spirit overshadowed Mary.


19) … her husband Joseph being a just man, … unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly (discreetly). 20) But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21)She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22) All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet(This is the prophet Isaiah): 23)”Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel… Immanuel” (which means, God with us).

Immanuel is Hebrew, it is a Messianic title. Jesus is His name because he will save His people from their sins. Immanuel is His title. It is the fulfillment of the promise He is God with us. Immanuel! God with us.

24) And when Joseph woke from his sleep he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, 25) but knew her not until she had given birth to a son.

There were many things that Mary did not know, that Joseph did not know, but what is clear in the Scripture is that they did not know one another as man and wife before the birth of Jesus the Son of God.

25) And he called his name Jesus. 

Immanuel! I’m going to preach this message today on one word: Immanuel! You say, “Good, it’s going to be a short sermon.” Not necessarily [laughter] because eternity is in this word, in this name Immanuel. An unusual name.

I heard about a man whose name was Odd. His last name was Odd. O-d-d. Strange name, right? And can you imagine going through life with your name… your last name being Odd. You know, people walk up to you and say things like, “Hey, you’re Odd, aren’t you?” [laughter] or “So your name is Odd. That’s odd.” Stuff like that. The guy lived with it his whole life. And to the degree. He hated it so much that when it came to the end and he was making plans, he left instructions that on his tombstone they should not put his name. Just leave it blank because he did not want people walking by and seeing his name and saying, “That’s Odd.” [laughter] So they did it just like that, left it blank.  And so when people come by to this day they look at it and say, “That’s odd.” [laughter]

The name of God is not odd; it is Immanuel—God with us. And three simple but profound truths from this one Hebrew word Immanuel. Three words in the English God with us.

First, God with us… God with us. Immanuel- Jesus is God! That is the singular meaning of Christmas and the singular meaning of the Christian faith. Everything else surrounding Christmas regarding what it’s all about is certainly secondary, even fringe and fictional. What is true about Christmas is Immanuel! God with us! What child is this? Who is this who is born? The Son of God and God the Son! One hundred percent Man, one hundred percent God; just as much Man as if He were not God at all… totally human, and yet just as much God as He were not… as if He were not Man at all… totally God. Perfectly God, perfectly human. Now God became one with us to identify with us, but not to be identical with us, because human blood is not coursing through the veins of Immanuel, but rather the blood of God.

It’s clear in this passage of Scripture that Jesus is born of a virgin. You say, “Does that really make a difference?” The difference is between heaven and hell, life and death, salvation and no salvation, and here’s why. If Jesus was not born of a virgin… if He was an earthly child of an earthly father and an earthly mother then human blood would be in His body, therefore the blood of man. And all have sinned; men have sinned. The sinful blood of mankind would have been coursing through Christ Himself, and therefore, He would have been unable to perform the pure and perfect sacrifice of God on the cross for us. What was critical in the birth of Jesus and the incarnation of God is that God became a Man in order to connect with us to, as Man, live among us but as God to die for us. To do for us what we could never do for ourselves. And so God came on this mission of love and grace to be with us. This is the incarnation. And with the incarnation comes the resurrection, but the incarnation makes the resurrection possible because Jesus is God!

We see the Trinity in this very passage. Without the Trinity… without the deity of Jesus Christianity crumbles, collapses because Christianity is a person! God in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself! Christianity is not a cause, it’s not a creed, it’s not a commandment, it’s not a church! Christianity is Christ! Immanuel! God with us! And so God is Trinity! Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This is the confession of all true believers, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

“You say the word Trinity is not in the Bible.” No, but the Trinity is in the Bible! You say, “Where is that?” Well, how about looking in Matthew 1. We just read it. The Trinity is all through the New Testament and the Word of God, but let me just show it to you right here in Matthew chapter one. The next time somebody says, “Where’s the Trinity?” point them here. Because in Matthew chapter 1 we first meet the Holy Spirit in verse 18. The Holy Spirit shows up overshadowing Mary, conceiving the Child, also mentioned again in verse 20… right at the end of verse 20, so there’s the Holy Spirit.

You have the Lord. See it down in verse 20. The angel of the Lord. That’s the name… personal name of God Himself, God Almighty, God the Father, God the Creator. The Lord Almighty! So here’s the Lord, the angel of the Lord. And then of course, you have announced in verse 21 that she shall bear a Son.

So there you have it. Father, the Lord; Spirit, the Holy Spirit, Son Jesus who will save his people from their sins. And over and over again we are told that God is one, expressed perfectly in Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Over and over again in the Bible we are told that Jesus is God. Not less than Gpd, but God Himself. That God has revealed Himself in the living Word of Jesus!

The disciples certainly believed it. They were with Him, walked with Him. They saw His moral perfection. They saw His purity. The fact that He’d never sinned. They heard His words. They were compelled by His actions. They saw Him raise the dead. They saw Him heal the sick. They saw Him do the things… the impossible that only God could do! And ultimately they began confessing Him not only as Master and Friend but as God Almighty.

After the resurrection when the skeptic Thomas who said, “I’ll not believe unless I touch Him, the very nail prints in His hands.” When he saw Jesus the Risen One, He fell before Him and cried out [John 20:28], “My Lord and My God… my Lord and my God!” And Jesus didn’t say, “Thomas, Thomas, get up. You don’t say that. I’m not God.” He accepted the worship of these men and all men and women as the Lord God Almighty. He claimed to be deity. He compelled others to confess His deity.

When the prophecy is given here regarding Immanuel… it’s an Old Testament prophecy come to fulfillment… Isaiah chapter 7, verse 14 promises and prophesies that the Messiah would be born of a virgin. And so Jesus was supernaturally born. It was an unequal, unexplainable mystery. The Scripture says [1 Timothy 3:16] “Great is the mystery of godliness”, that God was manifest in the flesh. The Trinity, the virgin birth, these kinds of miracles: Try to explain them and you will lose your mind! Try to explain them away and you will lose your soul.

Why do we believe the miracle? Because as the Scripture says in John chapter 1, the Word… Jesus became flesh. God became flesh. “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. And the Word was with God, and the Word was with God and the Word was God. The same that was in the beginning with God. He made all things, and by Him all things are made. And he became flesh and dwelt among us. The Glory of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and full of truth.” I like the way this is paraphrased or given by Eugene Peterson in The Message when it speaks of God dwelling with us, Jesus coming to us, our Immanuel, then it says, “And he moved into our neighborhood.” He dwelt among us! Immanuel, God with us! To show us who God is and what God is like. Jesus claimed to be God! He said, “If you have seen me you have seen the Father.” You are looking at God.

You have a choice to make regarding the deity of Jesus, the claims of Christ and His deity. Either He is as he claimed, Lord, God Himself, or else He’s a lunatic or a liar. You can’t say, “Well, He was a good man or a good moral teacher.” No founder of world religions has ever claimed to be God! Only Jesus declares His deity and demonstrated His deity ultimately by the resurrection!

One day Jesus was in conflict as He often was with the Pharisees, and they were accusing Him of being born, as they said, of fornication. And to say you’re the illegitimate child of a Jewish mother. And Jesus responded to their lies and their slander by saying in John 8:56: “Before Abraham was I am!” It drove them crazy. Now they knew He was claiming to be God. Now He said what they had suspected and expected Him to say all along, “I am God.” He said, “Before Abraham was I am.” Who could be before Abraham? They said, “We are the children of Abraham.” He said, “I am the father of Abraham.” Before Abraham was I am!

And “I am” as you know most likely as not… if you don’t know, here it is, the I am is the covenant personal name of God! So when Jesus said so often, I am:[John 6:35,51] “I am the Bread of heaven”; [John 8:12] “I am the Light of the world”; I am…  [John 8:58] “Before Abraham was, I am!” He was declaring His deity. He was compelling people to worship Him. That’s ultimately what got Him crucified. It was called blasphemy.

So you have to decide who is Jesus? What child is this?, because as I said, everything else about Christmas is secondary. This is the singular most important fact enforced in human history: the fact that Jesus is God, that the blood of Jesus that cleanses us from our sin is the blood of God! Immanuel. God with us.

But secondly God with us. God with us before because Jesus is God, we worship Him. God withus means that we walk with Him and He walked with us. God with us.

I don’t know about you but I’m behind on my shopping. I’m in a panic mode at this point and ah… so this week I’m going to go get the… you want to get the right present and we get all excited about giving the presents and so on, and I’m fine with that, of course, but really you know, of course, that it’s not about the presents; it’s about His presence… God with us. Immanuel. That the Creator is now in the cradle. The created One. He is with us.

Many people struggle at Christmas time. As a pastor I’ve seen it over the years personally. I know my own mother after my father was killed in 1970 for five years my mother lived and it was a lot of loneliness and especially at the Christmas season. And I was a college student at the time, and my brother and I did our best to comfort her and, I trust we did at some level, but I just remember her being very depressed and very lonely. And it was very sad around our house at Christmas because someone was missing. My dad, mom’s husband was gone.

There are a lot of people who are sad at this season. Some of you have gone through a broken relationship or a betrayal of some kind and… or maybe it’s a financial crush and pressure on you. Everybody’s buying all the gifts and saying Merry Christmas and Hap-hap-happy New Year and you don’t feel it. You feel the pressure, you know, to buy gifts you can’t afford for people you don’t even like [laughter], but you know, or at least to impress people you don’t even like. But people are sad. And many people feel alienated and alone and afraid. Depression rates soar at this season. Suicide rates are high at the end of the year so there’s a lot of sadness and a lot of suffering in the world. A lot of people who don’t get the whole Merry Christmas thing.

But I’m here to tell you that because of Christmas… I’m not talking about man’s Christmas, but God’s Christmas, because Jesus is Immanuel: He came to be with you. And there are times when you will be lonely, but you’re never alone if you know Jesus. There are times when you will be afraid. You’ll face fears. But Jesus came and the angel said, “Do not fear for Christ is born.”

If you’re alone, afraid… if you feel unloved, maybe unneeded, unnecessary, I remember that was one of the things I kept hearing from my mother in various ways when she was alone. She said, “I feel… I feel so… Why am I here? Why am I left alone? I just feel so unnecessary! Maybe it’d be better if I wasn’t here.” Frightening! But we pointed her and she did trust in Immanuel and found comfort in that.

You say how in this… how in Jesus do you find comfort? Because He understands and He cares and He knows. You say, “What would Jesus…? What would God know about me as a human being?” Immanuel. Jesus knew betrayal. He was alone; He died on a cross alone outside the city, rejected by His own people! Jesus was born in a borrowed barn, buried in a borrowed tomb. In His ministry didn’t even have a place to lay His head. Didn’t own His own property! Yes, He understands! Yes, He cares!

Hebrews 4:15 says this: “We have a great High Priest.” You know what a priest does, right? A priest is a mediator between God and man. A priest connects God to mankind. So we have a great High Priest Jesus Son of God. “We do not have priest who is unable to sympathize but one who in every respect has been tempted or tested as we also are tested, except without sin.” Yes, He knows, and He just not only knows, but He cares about what you’re going through. If I didn’t believe that I would close my Bible and never preach again.

But I’ve seen God’s presence… Immanuel… comfort people through the years. I’ve seen Him comfort my… my own family, my own life! He is with us! He is a Friend that sticks closer than a brother. Jesus said to His disciples and to all of who follow Him one day,[John 15:15] “I no longer call you my servants, I call you My friends!” Imagine that! Because of Immanuel, Jesus, we are the friends of God! God is our friend, not way out there somewhere, but connected to us, communing with us! He’s our friend. And it’s just overwhelming to think that we are loved in this way.

Jesus is my friend. You talk about name-dropping! You know some people like to drop names. Have you ever noticed that? “Oh, yeah, I know… I know the congressman.” “Oh, yeah, I know the CEO.” You’re a big shot. I know big important people. Name dropping’s a bad idea unless you’re dropping one name and that name is Immanuel Jesus! Drop that name a lot! Tell people Jesus is my friend! Tell people what Christ has done for you! Tell people how real He is to you! Jesus is my Lord, my Master, my Savior and my Friend! Drop that name and see what people say!

And you know if you’re a friend of Jesus, you’re a friend of mine. I’m a companion, the psalmist said, to all who love you. Prestonwood, God’s church anywhere is a company of friends. We are together on common ground because we have a shared friend.

You know how friends connect each other, network and connect one another? Why are we here? Well, we’re here from all different backgrounds, all different nationalities and races and ethnicities, all different ages. We’re cross generational at Prestonwood. But what connects us is we have a mutual friend and His name is Jesus. That’s why we’re here. Hey, I like you. I’d probably want to play golf with you or whatever, but that’s not what brings me here. If it wasn’t for the fact that Jesus was here, I wouldn’t be here! And neither would you! Can you imagine going to a church where there was no Jesus? We’re here because we have mutual friends and fellowship in the Lord Jesus Christ! And because you’re a friend of Jesus, I’m a friend of you. Any friend of Jesus is a friend of mine! Amen?

So Jesus Immanuel, God with us!- worship Him, God with us!- walk with Him. How many times has He said, “I’m with you, I’m with you, I’m with you, I’m with you! When you go through the deep waters, I’m with you. When the fire is turned up, I am with you! Like those three Hebrew children in the fiery furnace; one like the Son of God was in there with them. God doesn’t always keep us out of the fire, but when we get in the fire He gets in there with us! He said, “I will never leave you or forsake you.” He said, “Even though…” The psalmist said, [Psalm 23:4]“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for You are with me.” A Christian never dies alone! In fact, we’re told in 1 Thessalonians, chapter 4 when Christ comes for us at the rapture and the resurrection, it says, “Those who sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him.” Sleep is a reference to death and Scripture is saying Jesus just puts us to sleep, we’re asleep in Jesus. [2 Corinthians 5:8] “And to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.”  He’s always with us even when we don’t know He’s with us.

Many of you have had the experience of a loved one who has dementia or Alzheimer’s and it’s a sad and hurtful suffering that’s hard to explain. But I’m here to tell you that your love one is not alone in their own world. Jesus is with them. They may not know it, but He’s with them.

When my dad was brutally murdered in 1970, he was bludgeoned with a hammer by a man that walked into his store in east Fort Worth. I went home and I remember picking… I was a college student… I went home and I remember picking up his Bible. My dad loved the Lord and he wasn’t a Bible scholar by any means, wasn’t a Bible student to much degree, but He loved God’s Word and he loved church, and he produced to boys, two sons… just two sons, just the two of us. Both of us ended up preaching the Gospel so Dad’s preaching today.

But I looked in His Bible and there wasn’t a lot in there. But in the white pages at the front of the Bible he’d written these words: “My favorite verse.’ Well, I was interested in seeing that. And it was Isaiah 41:10: I read it. “Fear not, for I am with you. Be not dismayed for I am your God. I will strengthen you. I will help you. I will uphold you with strong right hand.” When I first read that I started crying, because I thought “God, my dad said this was his favorite verse, that You would be with him!” Where were you, God, on that parking lot? Why weren’t you with my dad to protect my dad, to deliver my dad, to save my dad! Where were you, God?” And I lived with that a while.

Them I came to realize that my dad’s promise was true. That God’s promise that my dad loved was true. And my God Jesus was with my dad on that fateful day, that terrible day. And you know how? Because Jesus said,[John 14:1-3] “Don’t let your heart be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions. If it were not so I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. (This is all in John 14) I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go, I will come again. I will come again and receive you to Myself that where I am there you will be also!” [2 Corinthians 5:8]“To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.” Yes, I know Immanuel was with my dad that day, and my dad is with Him forever!

Immanuel! Heaven’s Son, our Savior! And one day… one day He’s coming. He’s coming soon for each of us, and when He does all the tears that we’ve cried, all the suffering, the pain that He’s entered into… He’s going to wipe away our tears one last time, praise God! One last time He’ll wipe away all our tears, every tear and we will be with Him forever and ever. And we will say God is with us and we are His. We belong to Him. The tabernacle of God… the presence of God is with man forever. Walk with Him all the way to heaven.

Briefly, one final word: Immanuel… God is with us… with us, therefore, welcome Him. Worship Him, walk with Him, worship… and welcome Him Immanuel. It’s about us; it’s about you and me knowing Jesus personally by unwrapping the gift of Christmas, opening up the gift and receiving Christ, welcoming Him so that we have a relationship with Him.

Let me tell you something; Jesus is real to me! He’s not somebody I just talk about or think about! He’s real to me. Like the great George W. Truett of First Baptist Dallas years ago said to a young skeptic… When the skeptic asked him, “Is God real to you?” the great pastor held out his hands and he said, “He is more real to me than the skin on my bones!” Can you say that? He’s real to me.

Jesus is God with skin on. You heard about the little boy… he… A storm was coming through and thunder and lightning. He was afraid so he yelled into the next room where his parents were trying to sleep, and said, “Mommy, Daddy, I’m scared! Come in here!” His dad wanted to comfort him and, you know, charge him to be courageous and said, “Son, just stay right there.” More thunder! He said, “Mom, Dad, come help me! Come in here!” He said, “No, son. Just grab your teddy bear. Grab your little bunny rabbit. Hold onto your pillow.” Got real quiet for a little while. More thunder. Little voice came back, said, “Daddy, I need something with skin on it!” Jesus is God with skin on. Immanuel, incarnate God!

So I don’t say it boastfully, I don’t say it arrogantly; I say it gratefully and humbly that Jesus is real to me. Is He real to you? “Unto you is born this day a Savior who is Christ the Lord.” Has He been born unto you? Have you been born again? “For God so loves the world and everybody in it, but He loves you!” Don’t be like Charlie Brown who one day said, “I love the world; it’s people that I can’t stand.” [laughter] No, God loves the world, but He loves people like you and me. And He… we love Him because He first loved us. Welcome Him into your life!

Do you know why you’re here today? You know why you’re watching on the internet today, or watching on television today? Because God is with you and God has brought you to this moment of decision and destiny in your life. You can know the presence of Jesus Christ.

And with the presence of Christ as we’re going to understand next week… “God in Us” we have the power to live the life that He’s been… that He gives us. And we have a purpose and we have a mission, we have meaning, and that is to serve Him and honor Him as we welcome Him into our live.