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Read Isaiah 9:2-7

2700 years ago, the Middle East was a troubled place ... [See 2 Kings 16, 2 Chronicles 28, Isaiah 7-9]

It’s in the midst of this Middle East Crisis that the name Immanuel is first spoken ...

700 years after Ahaz, the Middle East was still a troubled region ... [See Matthew 1-2]

Immanuel ... God is With Us. He lives with us, yet the presence of God With Us – God in this world – changes the way we live in this world.

Immanuel means we fear God rather than the crisis of the day ...
The Lord has given me a strong warning not to think like everyone else does. He said, “Don’t call everything a conspiracy, like they do, and don’t live in dread of what frightens them. Make the Lord of Heaven’s Armies holy in your life. He is the one you should fear. He is the one who should make you tremble. – Isaiah 8

Immanuel means that a new age of justice is breaking into our unjust and cruel world ...
“He will break the yoke of slavery” – slavery? Is there slavery in the world? God help us there is. Some 20 million in the world, many of them children, are forced into slavery. The economics and sexual perversions of a troubled world have forged their chains.

“But Immanuel will lift the heavy burden from their shoulders and break the oppressor’s rod.” May God help us that we are not their oppressors, or we will find ourselves at odds with Immanuel!

Immanuel means that a new age of peace is breaking into our hostile world ...
“The boots of the warrior and the uniforms bloodstained by war will all be burned. They will be fuel for the fire.” His government and its peace will never end. He will rule with fairness and justice from the throne of his ancestor David for all eternity. The passionate commitment of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies will make this happen!” – Isaiah 9

2000 years after the name Immanuel was spoken to Joseph and Mary, the Middle East is still a troubled place. But in the 21st century, that means the world is a troubled place.

But God is With Us. He is with all of us. God is for us. Pay attention, I am not saying that God is with us – and not with them, whoever them is. For the arrival of Immanuel means that things are radically different [Isaiah 11]:

6The wolf will live with the lamb,
          the leopard will lie down with the goat,
          the calf and the lion and the yearling together;
          and a little child will lead them.
7 The cow will feed with the bear,
          their young will lie down together,
          and the lion will eat straw like the ox.
8 The infant will play near the hole of the cobra,
          and the young child put his hand into the viper's nest.
9 They will neither harm nor destroy
          on all my holy mountain,
          for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD
          as the waters cover the sea.

Under the flag of Immanuel, natural enemies live in peace. That’s not possible under any other banner. That’s not possible with any other treaty or alliance. No army on earth can secure this peace. Only the commitment of the the Lord who command Heaven’s Armies can secure this peace.

When all hope is lost, when we are afraid and troubled – that’s when God gives us a sign. Immanuel is that sign. God with us is that sign. We see in our baptism – God is with us. We see it in our communion – God is With Us. We see it in our love and service – God is with us.

God is with us. Immanuel. Jesus Christ born of a virgin. He showed us the glory of God. He bore the shame of the cross. God raised Him and established His rule over all time and space. Do you know Him?

Let us pray and hope for that day when the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord. That’s the day when swords become plowshares. That’s the day we receive justice. That’s the day we stop harming one another. Let’s live like that day is today for in Jesus Christ God is with us. Do you know Him?

Chris Benjamin

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 23 December 2007

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