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What’s in a Name? A Christmas Eve Sermon from Concordia (Matt 11:18-25)

Altar with communion

What is in a Name?
Matthew 11:18-25

In Jesus Name

May the Grace of God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ, prove to us He is Immanuel, God WITH Us!  AMEN!


I’m confused – Do I call him Jesus or Immanuel

Once upon a time, I managed a fast-food restaurant.  It was the rule back in those days to call the managers by Mr., or Mrs., or Ms. and their last name, and cooks and cashiers by their first name.

That was always a challenge for me because, at 22, I had a closing crew that was all older than I was at the time.  And having my elderly 40-year-old cashier Su-lin from Thailand, or Maximino and Guillermo, two brothers in their 30’s from Oaxaca call me Mr. Parker just didn’t seem right.

Su-lin had a problem with pronouncing Dustin, so as we were talking one night, she asked me what the name Dustin meant.  I told her and Max piped up – so we can just call you Pedro.  Fine with me, don’t like Dustin that much.

But it made it confusing for the rest of the staff, looking around when one of the three of them called out – Pedro – help!

As I read the story about Joseph from Matthew’s gospel, I thought of the confusion!

Matthew tells us the angels told Joseph to name his foster Son, Jesus.  But then says that this was to fulfill the prophecy that he would be called Immanuel.

So which is it, Jesus or Immanuel?  Which do we call him?  Which is the proper way to address the King of Kings and Lord of Lords?

Maybe looking at what why would call Jesus will help us figure it out.  Or maybe there is more to a name than how we yell at them from across the room!

Yah-Sozo

The angels say, “you are to name Him Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”  Pretty simple, and that is what His name means.

Yah – short for Yahweh – God’s name in Hebrew, and Yasha – to make free, to preserve.

In that name, we hear an incredible message, that Jesus came to save us. As the angel says from our sins, from our brokenness.

That is part of the gospel message – that because of Jesus, we won’t face the wrath our sins deserve.

But as the television ads say, there is more, something greater than this life, which is found in what the Old Testament revealed that people will call Him.

Immanu-El

The other name Matthew tells us the Messiah will be called is Immanuel!  A word that reminds us that God is immanent, that God is immediate, that God is here, with us.

This is the purpose of Jesus saving us, to spend time with us, not just on Christmas and Easter, but every moment of our lives. This is His goal in saving us, His goal in the incarnation and birth, the life and death on the cross, it all ends up with this simple concept,

Immanuel.

God with us.

His dream, His desire, repeated over and over in scriptures, “for I will be your God and you will be my people.

AMEN!

Christmas Eve: Relationships: Isaiah 9

Relationships

Isaiah 9:6-7

†  I.H.S.

May you realize the long awaited promise of God’s active presence in our lives, came true for all on a night like this… as Jesus the Messiah was born.

Four Letters.

Four simple letters, written by a prophet 700 years before the event he saw.  The promise of God nearly two millennia before that.

Four letters, divided into two words, that matter more than we can imagine.

“to us.”

This child that we celebrate, this man who is God whom we glorify, was born to us.

To us…..

And everything changes, as the relationship that God wants to have with us, is revealed.  That which they couldn’t understand in Isaiah’s day, and couldn’t understand on the night when Mary gave birth, made clear.  God came to us.  To have a relationship with us, to relate to us in a number of ways Isaiah tells US.

Like Kay is my wife, the church’s office manager, the mother of my son, so too does God relate TO US in a number of incredible ways….. and as we celebrate Jesus coming to us, as we ponder what this all means, it is worth looking at who Isaiah says this Jesus, this God is saves relates… to us

Wonderful Counselor, the one who comforts and directs, who consoles and guides, whose wisdom we depend upon.  This is the God, who came to us. It is the first way Isaiah tells us that He will relate… to us.

He does this because we need direction, we need comfort, we need God here, to be our shepherd. Because we too often lose our way morally, We need Him when life results in despair and mourning. So a child was born to us.

That baby, who was laid in a feeding trough, this child born of parents who would soon leave their country because of persecution and move. He is one we truly need, A God, the God, not made of wood or fashioned from stone.  A God, who is mighty, and uses that might, that ability, that power, for us. For that is how He would relate to us.  Not just minimally from a distance but interacting with us here.

Too often we make false gods, ones who would promise to do what we want, what we think we want.  We don’t want these gods to love us; rather we only want them to give us what we think we need.  This God, though, who came as a child to us…is not like that.  He is a mighty God, who loves and knows what we truly need.  He relates to us as the God, who is always able to be Whom we need,

The next way is is my favorite of the ways in which God relates to us humans, to his people. As our eternal dad, as the loving Father, we run to when we are hurt when we’ve broken our neighbor’s window, or their hearts when we’ve done the things that leave us needing His strong embrace.

And this Father is eternal, and he will be our Father eternally.  Think about that.  God just isn’t a god of this day or that, a fad.  He will be your God always.

There is a lot in this idea that this child relates to us as our Father, our everlasting Father.  Theologians make a big deal of it.  But when you need Him, His embrace is there…for you.

The last way God relates to us, through this child given to us, is so needed today.  With all of the stress, all of the fears, with all the brokenness we have to witness, such is the nature of the God who comes to us.  He is the Prince of Peace!

We so often picture the serenity of the manger scene, which I am not quite sure would be that peaceful.  A woman gave birth, a husband tired and weary, the shepherds, still in awe of the million angels announcing the glory of Christ being born… into that scene comes the prince of peace… and we always picture that scene as serene, peaceful, because we know His character.

The child who would be, no who is, the prince of peace….our Prince of peace.

This child in the manger calms our fears, our anxieties, our lives…our world.  Because of him, we have this peace… peace beyond understanding.  For that is why He came… to us.

And the prince of peace….to us is given

The prince of peace who has come… to us.

AMEN!

An incredible Lenten Friday Sacrifice – the “safe” distance.

Devotional/Discussion thought of the day:

 “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, who will stay with you forever. 17 He is the Spirit, who reveals the truth about God. The world cannot receive him, because it cannot see him or know him. But you know him, because he remains with you and is in you. 18 “When I go, you will not be left all alone; I will come back to you. 19 In a little while the world will see me no more, but you will see me; and because I live, you also will live. 20 When that day comes, you will know that I am in my Father and that you are in me, just as I am in you.” John 14:16-20 (TEV)

From there, where you are working, let your heart escape to the Lord, right close to the Tabernacle, to tell him, without doing anything odd, “My Jesus, I love You”. Don’t be afraid to call him so—my Jesus—and to say it to him often.(1)

Memories of Fridays growing up – fish sticks for lunch, Filet of Fishes for Dinner, Occasionally clam strips and sometimes, if things we going well – baked stuff shrimp.  Move forward into my early twenties, and working as a manager at McDonald’s – and we have to covert to extra friers to handle the demand for fish, because our unit was in a heavily hispanic area.

No meat on friday – no burgers, or steaks, or bacon or pork.  Not even spaghetti and meatballs!  I wish I would have understood lent as a kid, even as a young man, and the sacrifices that we were strongly encouraged to make.  (Try showing up at a Catholic Jr. High School with a baloney sandwich for lunch.  Still remember that day…)  Abstaining from things, and even fasting are not bad, but very solid practices, given the understanding that should accompany them.  They are not to make us more attractive to God, but rather, to free us to focus on Him.  (Something we should strive to do all the time btw – not just during Lent!)

A suggestion- spend little moments of time throughout the day thinking about the verse above.  The words of Christ, as he prepares his followers for His cross, for His death, but also for His resurrection.  A great passage to contemplate, over and over, during our Lenten journey. 

We must realize that because He lives, because we are united to His death and Resurrection we live, in Him. We are with Him, we aren’t far off.  

Most of us, seem to prefer to live a distance from God.  We want His blessings, and church sometimes isn’t a bad thing – especially when others are stressing us. We won’t Him in the background, just at the edge of how far we think our voices will cry, when we need to be rescued. Perhaps we are worried that He won’t like us close up, or that He will ask us to do something, to make some sacrifice,, or perhaps, He might want us to give up something closer and more meaningful to us than steak or bacon….yeah – you know – that sin we don’t want everyone to know about, or that resentment we nourish, because of a pain caused years ago.

It is time to give that up, to sacrifice that distance, to come close to God, to let Him draw you near, to make you an integral part of His family.  No more hiding, no more looking in from the edges… time to admit, to confess, to cry our in praise and adoration – My Jesus, i love you!  

For such is the response of faith, or trusting in Him and His revelation, of knowing His presence.  Of depending upon Him.

 

 

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 2697-2700). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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