Fourth Sunday in Advent [a] December 22, 2019
10 Again the LORD spoke to Ahaz, 11 “Ask a sign of the LORD your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as Heaven.” 12 But Ahaz said, “I will not ask, and I will not put the LORD to the test.” 13 And he said, “Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary men, that you weary my God also? 14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. 15 He shall eat curds and honey when he knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good. 16 For before the boy knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land whose two kings you dread will be deserted. 17 The LORD will bring upon you and upon your people and upon your father’s house such days as have not come since the day that Ephraim departed from Judah—the king of Assyria.”
In the Name of Jesus.
The Virgin will conceive and bear a Son. Call his Name Immanuel. Immanuel, the Hebrew word meaning God-with-us.
When this Immanuel comes, he is the child of a virgin named Mary, and his name is given as Jesus. Jesus is the Hebrew word meaning The-Lord-saves.
So now we have Mary’s little baby fully named. He is Immanuel, that is, he is God in the flesh to dwell with us. And he is Jesus, that is, he is the Lord having come into the flesh, but having come into the flesh for the purpose of saving us.
What does it mean that he is God-with-us?
Isaiah makes an extraordinary announcement to King Ahaz. There will be Virgin—Isaiah doesn’t say here precisely where or when—but there will be a Virgin, and she will become pregnant and have a Son.
How will this happen? Isaiah doesn’t unfold this. He gives only one piece of description. This child will be God-with-us. That is, he will be human—he is, after all, the son of a woman. And this child will be God. For he is God dwelling with us as Man.
Isaiah doesn’t go further. The when, the where, the how, Isaiah seems to be happy to leave it all hanging. But this son of the Virgin will be true God, and he will be God dwelling with us.
What does it mean that he is God-with-us? It means that he will live in this world with us in a natural way, and in this way, he will share with us not only in the joys, but also in the sufferings.
He will share in such joys as a wedding party where people are singing and dancing and drinking wine. He’s right there in the middle. He will share in such joys as, perhaps, watching Mary, his mother, smile as she roasts a chicken for a family dinner, or, perhaps, seeing Joseph, his earthly father, smile in pride as he puts the finishing touches on a new table he’s built.
The joys of birthdays, of family dinners, of new clothes, he has shared with us in all of that. And in the suffering. To come into the world as Immanuel, God-with-us, means that he will share with us in the suffering common to every person.
Laying in bed for three days with the flu, or sidelined with a migraine—we don’t know if Jesus himself had the flu or migraines, or whatever other sicknesses, but he shared in the pain of a friend being sick, or a loved one throwing-up, or a relative bent over with an ulcer, or he saw a friend crying when his pet dog died, or a neighbor in travail when hard rain washed away the crop he planted a month before.
God-with-us, Jesus, shared in all that is common to the human in this world.
He shared with us also in temptation. Common to every person is the enticement of the demons.
Temptations take different forms and force for each one of us—for the demons can observe us and know us and will tempt each of us in the way most harmful to each. So the demons may tempt one man most greatly to lust, another they tempt to envy his neighbor’s wealth, another to judge those around him, and all are afflicted by voice of the demons in our consciences, where, in this demonic conversation, they hold us under the guilt of the Law, leading us to despair.
God came to be with us in this. Jesus knows our temptation even better than we do, having given himself to be tempted in every way by Satan in the wilderness.
These lives of ours, these lives where we live in the suffering we know in our sinful world, where we live under suffering brought by the affliction of the devil, where we live in our own sinful flesh—in these lives of ours, he is God-with-us, he joined with us in all that we are and in all that we do, though he himself is without sin. He has shared with us in it all.
What is the one fact common to every human, that no human can escape, and that to be absent of would be to not even be human?
Death. Death at the end. Maybe by violence, maybe by sickness, maybe by the weakening of age, but death.
Had Jesus shared with us in everything it is to be human, the joys and the sufferings, the eating and the drinking, the laughter and the tears—had Jesus shared with us in it all, but had not died, then he would not have shared with us, he would not have been one of us.
For we are sinners, and to the sinner is assigned death.
He is without sin. But he clothed himself in our sin. He came into the world holy, but he stood in for us, taking our unholiness upon himself.
And as the greatest sinner of all, for he who himself is without sin, bore the sin of every sinner—as the greatest sinner of all, he took upon himself what belongs to the sinner. Death. A death which did not belong to him, but which he took according to his Name. His Name is Jesus, which means, the Lord saves, and he came to save us from death. A death which, though not belonging to him, he took in its fulness, for he was taking it for every sinner, because he is Immanuel, which means, God-with-us.
God with us in the deepest, most profound thing we have made ourselves to be: with us in our sin, in our fear, in our death.
God-with-us, in our sinful humanity, in order to take it all upon himself and put it to death in his own human body on the cross.
He who knows no sin, is God-with-us as Jesus, our Lord who saves us. He is with us, having joined us to himself in Baptism, so that just as he was clothed in our sin, he has now clothed us in his righteousness.
With us in Baptism such that, as we saw in his gift given to little Bailey Marie this morning, he calls us into his Church, he promises to continue teaching us all the gifts of his Gospel as he gathers us with his people in the fellowship of his Church, and, in this fellowship of the baptized, he keeps us in the faith of the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting.
We are body and blood humans. Now he makes himself with us in his Body and Blood way, which is always to be with us forgiving our sins.
In the Name of Jesus.