God With Us ~ 20151227 ~ Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

12/27 Don't put Jesus Away with your Nativity!; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20151227_god-with-us.mp3

So Christmas is over. For some of us, that is a relief. The preparation and shopping and traveling and decorating and baking and busyness are behind us. We can take a deep breath, clean up the mess, eat through the leftovers, pack up the decorations and store them away for another year. Many of us have a nativity scene, a set with figures of Mary and Joseph and shepherds and wise men and sheep and a donkey and the baby Jesus in a manger. We set this up in our homes, not as an object to be worshiped, but as a visible reminder of what we celebrate, something we can use to teach our children, a reminder to keep Jesus central. In the coming weeks, we will be packing that up, along with all the other Christmas decorations and putting it in a box in the basement or attic for another year. I want to caution you; Don't put Jesus away! Don't put him in a box and store him out of sight and out of mind for another year! Don't wrap Jesus up in tissue paper and bubble wrap and put him on a shelf!

I'm not saying that you can't put away your nativity set. I'm not saying that you can pack up all the sheep and wise men and even Mary, but you must keep the baby Jesus out all year. No. Put it away. But Jesus is not the porcelain or wooden figure laying in the hay. Jesus is Immanuel, God with us! Don't set Jesus aside as if he were a holiday decoration.

The nativity doesn't tell the whole story. Jesus was a born in a stable to a young virgin mother, placed in a manger, a real baby. But Jesus was so much more. Jesus is the Eternal Creator God, the only Son of his Father, the great I AM. I've not seen a nativity display that can capture that! Jesus was born in humble circumstances, but Jesus didn't stay a baby. He grew to be a man. He became an itinerant preacher. People left their jobs to follow him. He got himself in trouble with the religious authorities, and got himself crucified. In that act, he took my sin upon him and before God the Father he paid my price in full. I've never seen a nativity set that can communicate the whole story of who Jesus is or why he came.

Matthew 1:18-23 says:

Matthew 1:18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. 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 and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 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: 23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).

Jesus is the Only Begotten Son of God

Jesus is the only begotten Son of God. Joseph was understandably troubled that his betrothed bride to be was pregnant. But the angel assured him 'that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit'. The angel told Mary:

Luke 1:31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. …

...35 And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy— the Son of God.

John's gospel says that Jesus, the Word, was with God and was God, and

John 1:14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

This is no ordinary baby. Jesus is Eternal God become flesh, the only begotten, unique, one-and-only son of the Father. Jesus, who is fully God, who eternally existed with his Father, at a moment in history his divine nature was united to human flesh. He became a human embryo. The Creator God was born a human baby. This is something no manger scene can convey.

Jesus is the Savior

The angel told Joseph 'you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins' (Mt.1:21). John introduces Jesus

John 1:29 ... and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.’

Jesus is the sin-bearing substitute. Jesus himself said:

Mark 10:45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Peter teaches that 'you were ransomed ...with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot” (1Pet.1:18-19). And he says:

1 Peter 2:24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.

Jesus paid the price for our sins. He died in our place. He took the punishment we deserved. He came to save his people from their sins. He came to give his life a ransom for many.

To look no further than the manger is to miss the meaning of the coming of the Son of God.

Jesus is Immanuel, God with us.

Matthew 1: 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: 23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).

The baby in the manger is to be called Immanuel. God with us. Take note of this. Jesus is God, fully God, eternal God, omnipotent sovereign creator God, the great I AM. Jesus said

John 8:58 Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” 59 So they picked up stones to throw at him...

The author of Hebrews says of Jesus:

Hebrews 1:3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,

Colossians says of Jesus:

Colossians 1:15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

Jesus is God. And he is God with us. Not God against us. Not God distant, afar off.

Isaiah 59:2 ​but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear.

We sinned. We rebelled. We caused a rift in our relationship. We became his enemies. We deserve just retribution for our willful disobedience. But God came down.

Romans 5:8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.

Jesus said:

John 12:46 I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness. 47 ...for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world.

Jesus did not come as judge to punish, but as a lamb to bear a punishment not his own. Jesus died to bring us near.

Job lamented:

Job 9:33 There is no arbiter between us, who might lay his hand on us both.

He longed for a mediator who could go between a holy God and sinful man. Jesus is that longed for mediator. He lays his hand on us both. He died to bring us near.

1 Peter 3:18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God...

That he might bring us to God. Jesus is Immanuel. Jesus made a way for us to be with God and experience his affection rather than his retribution. Jesus said:

John 14:6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Jesus is the only way for us to be reconciled to the Father. Jesus is Immanuel – God with us. Jesus came to bring us to God, to reconcile us to God, to restore our relationship with God.

So don't put Jesus in a box! Don't put Jesus away in storage! Let every heart prepare him room! Enjoy your blood bought relationship with Jesus. Savor him every day. Enjoy his presence with you!

At the close of Matthew's gospel, after the resurrection, as Jesus appeared to his followers,

Matthew 28:17 And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

He commissions his disciples to make disciples, and he gives them his promise. I am with you always, to the end of the age. Jesus is Immanuel, God with us. He promises to be with us, to never leave us. Jesus said in John 14:

John 14:23 Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.

Jesus and his Father love us and come to make their home with us! Don't put Jesus away after the holidays are past. Seek to foster an awareness of his presence with you every moment of every day. Allow his presence to shape your attitudes, your your actions, your reactions, your identity. Hebrews says:

Hebrews 13:5 ...be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Enjoy the presence of the God who has made a way to be with you forever!

Jesus is not Fragile

As a wedding gift, we were given a white porcelain nativity set that was made at the Carmelite Monestary in Seattle. It is fragile, so we wrap it up carefully each year and pack it away. Both horns on the ox have broken off and are missing, and one year, one of the wise men tipped over and lost his head, so I had to glue it back on. We have since bought a little plastic resin nativity set that is more durable so the younger kids can play with it without having to worry. Even on that most of the points on the kings crowns have broken off.

Jesus is not fragile. Jesus does not need to be packed away, insulated from the real world. Jesus does not need to be protected like a fragile decoration. He is durable, resilient, you can interact with him, bring him in to the dirty messy situations. We don't need to worry that we will break him or tarnish him. Jesus wants to interact with us. Jesus wants to be accessible.

He is real. He understands what real life is like. He knows what we are like. He is not surprised by our sin. Jesus did not hesitate to interact with the worst sinners. Prostitutes, tax collectors, adulterers, demon possessed. In fact he says

Mark 2:17 ...“Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Jesus came specifically for sinners, for the broken, for the hurting, for those who knew they were helpless and needed his help. He shocked the religious leaders by pronouncing sins forgiven.

1 John 1:8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Jesus does not get stained by sin.

Isaiah 1:18 “Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.

Jesus is not defiled by contact with sinners. Instead the sinner is cleansed, washed, transformed, made new!

In Matthew 8,

Matthew 8:2 And behold, a leper came to him and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.” 3 And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I will; be clean.” And immediately his leprosy was cleansed.

Jesus did not hesitate to touch lepers and the unclean. He did not get infected; they were made whole!

Jesus is the lion of the tribe of Judah! He is strong and fierce. Don't pack him away, turn him loose! Don't shield him from evil, allow him to overcome evil with good! Turn him loose in your neighborhood! Turn him loose among the broken, the hurting, sinners.

Jesus has strong shoulders. He invites us to come weary, come heavy laden, come burdened and find rest. He invites us to cast our anxieties on him, because he cares for us.

Matthew 6:28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

I invite you to open the box. Experience Jesus all year round. Acknowledge his presence, because he promised to never leave or forsake you. I invite you to enjoy his presence, for he is Immanuel, God with us. He is with you in your joys and in the deepest sorrows of life. He is strong enough to overcome your failures and flaws. He will carry you through the most trying times. Treasure his presence with you. He will clothe you with boldness to advance his gospel in spite of your fears and inadequacies.

Isaiah 41:10 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 my righteous right hand.

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org