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:
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:
John's gospel says that Jesus, the Word, was with God and was God, and
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
Jesus is the sin-bearing substitute. Jesus himself said:
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:
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.
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
The author of Hebrews says of Jesus:
Colossians says of Jesus:
Jesus is God. And he is God with us. Not God against us. Not God distant, afar off.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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,
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:
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:
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
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.
Jesus does not get stained by sin.
Jesus is not defiled by contact with sinners. Instead the sinner is cleansed, washed, transformed, made new!
In Matthew 8,
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.
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.
Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org