It’s Christmas Eve. The night in which little kids are filled with anticipation, waiting, wondering, expecting that things are going to turn out and Christmas morning will be filled with everything they’ve hoped for. It’s Christmas Eve. The night in which moms and dads are filled with excitement about seeing the looks on the faces of their kids when Christmas morning arrives and joy fills their living room like the morning sun. Those are beautiful pictures of what’s to come for some. If that describes you and your family tonight then be grateful, treasure these moments these gifts from God.

For others Christmas Eve finds you staring into space trying to find a reason to carry on. For some this night is filled with anxiety, sadness, sorrow, anger, or despair. You find yourself between a rock and a hard place and there doesn’t seem to be any way out. I’m so glad that you’ve come tonight because God has a very unique gift for you. A gift that you will never find on any shelf in any store or wrapped under any tree. For those who find themselves between a rock and a hard place, filled with sorrow, or paralyzed by fear of what the future holds—I want to introduce you to a friend.

For the past four weeks we’ve been studying Isaiah 9:1-7. It is my prayer that those of you who have been here for these four weeks have come to see much more clearly the One who is described as the Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and the Prince of Peace. It is God’s desire for you and me to know Jesus in these ways. He is the Wonderful Counselor—the One who will speak truth to you and me, the One who will never give us bad advice, or lead us astray. He is the Mighty God—the One who holds all power in His hand and who is able to do that which you and I can’t even imagine. He is the Everlasting Father—we don’t have to live too long to recognize that this life is short and that those we love will not always be with us, but He is the Everlasting Father who will be the one constant in all of creation throughout your life. He is the Prince of Peace—in a world filled with strife, turmoil, and chaos you can know the peace that Jesus promised in the storms of your life. All of these things are true and worthy of our trust for God has never broken a promise.

Now, let me introduce to someone who was given the opportunity to trust God in the midst of an unnerving experience in his life. Ahaz was one of the kings who reigned in Judah while Isaiah was serving God as a prophet. Ahaz heard that the king of Syria had joined forces with the king of Israel and they were coming to destroy Jerusalem and all of Judah. When Ahaz and the people of Judah found out what was going on they were terrified. In Isaiah 7:2 we read,

Now the house of David was told, “Aram has allied itself with Ephraim”; so the hearts of Ahaz and his people were shaken, as the trees of the forest are shaken by the wind. (Isaiah 7:2 NIV)

The Lord told Isaiah to take his son and go to king Ahaz with a message. He told Isaiah to deliver the message to the king. And this was the message:

4 Say to him, ‘Be careful, keep calm and don’t be afraid. Do not lose heart because of these two smoldering stubs of firewood–because of the fierce anger of Rezin and Aram and of the son of Remaliah. 5 Aram, Ephraim and Remaliah’s son have plotted your ruin, saying, 6 “Let us invade Judah; let us tear it apart and divide it among ourselves, and make the son of Tabeel king over it.” 7 Yet this is what the Sovereign LORD says: “‘It will not take place, it will not happen, (Isaiah 7:4-7 NIV)

So God says, “I know what they have planned, but it’s not going to happen.” Ahaz was unfazed by the visit from Isaiah. God told Isaiah, “Tell Ahaz to ask for a sign, any sign.” Ahaz said, “I’m not going to put God to the test,” but in actuality Ahaz didn’t trust God. God gave Ahaz a sign any way. Read along with me from Isaiah 7:14.

14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. (Isaiah 7:14 NIV)

God was making clear that a birth would take place, a baby would be born that he would be aware of, and that baby, “Immanuel,” would be a visible sign to Ahaz and the people that God was with them and what He promised was true. What a powerful affirmation of God’s presence with king Ahaz and the people of Judah, but Ahaz had already decided what he was going to do. He wasn’t going to put his trust in some spiritual mumbo jumbo when he needed to do something “now.” Ahaz sent messengers to the king of Assyria, the superpower of the region at the time, and this is the message he sent with the messenger.

7 Ahaz sent messengers to say to Tiglath-Pileser king of Assyria, “I am your servant and vassal. Come up and save me out of the hand of the king of Aram and of the king of Israel, who are attacking me.” 8 And Ahaz took the silver and gold found in the temple of the LORD and in the treasuries of the royal palace and sent it as a gift to the king of Assyria. (2 Kings 16:7-8 NIV)

To make a long story short, Ahaz sold his soul to the Assyrian king and the Assyrians enslaved him. Ahaz had been given an opportunity, a visual reminder of God’s presence, and an invitation to trust God rather than forge an alliance with the pagan Assyrians, but Ahaz refused, it didn’t seem practical, didn’t seem logical.

I’m sharing this story with you tonight, on Christmas Eve, because some of us gathered in this sanctuary this dark night are in the same position as Ahaz years ago. You are trembling like the leaves on the trees wondering about your future or the future of someone you love more than life. I’ve come with the same message of the prophet Isaiah, “trust God.” Regardless of how things appear, regardless of how painful the present situation may be, regardless of whether things get better or worse—trust God.

I don’t know the name of the baby who was born during Ahaz’ day, but I know that the child who was born in his day was a mere shadow of the real fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy. More than 700 years later God didn’t speak to a king, but to a carpenter who was between a rock and a hard place because he found out his wife-to-be was pregnant…and he knew he wasn’t the father. Listen to the word that came to Joseph.

20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”). 24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. (Matthew 1:20-24 NIV)

“God with us.” The Child was born and He was with us in a way that none of us could have ever imagined. Though He was sinless, He took all of our sins upon Himself. Isaiah said of Him,

5 But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. (Isaiah 53:5 NIV)

Not only did He take into His sinless body the sins of each of us, but He is described by Scripture as a “Man who was despised and rejected by people,” “a man of suffering,” and “familiar with pain.” Isaiah tell us,

3 He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. (Isaiah 53:3 NIV)

He is not with us like an instructor who barks out orders, but He is with us in the midst of our mess. He wept with Mary and Martha over the death of their brother Lazarus…and He’s weeping with some of you this very night. Jesus reached out His hand, full of compassion, and touched the ones that nobody wanted to be around, the leper and the outcast. Someone here this night needs to know that He is reaching out His hand, it’s still full of compassion, and He is reaching out to you. He took the time to tell the rich young ruler the truth. That’s not the usual way people treat the wealthy who can benefit them in some way, but Jesus took the time to tell him not what he wanted to hear, but what he needed to hear. There are some of you here tonight who are wealthy and it’s tempting to see your money as a security blanket, but Jesus loves you too much to allow that to happen. He would like to speak to you tonight. Jesus told the woman who had made a mess of her family…”Go and sin no more.” There are some of you here tonight who know that you’ve made a mess of your family, you carry that shame with you day-in and day-out. Jesus didn’t bring you here tonight to rub your nose in it, He brought you here to say, “Go and sin no more!” Jesus made it clear to His disciples that much of their suffering would come from the hands of others, but He said that He would be their peace. Some of you are in turmoil, stressed, loaded down with anxiety because of what others are doing, but He has brought you here tonight so that you might know that He is your peace.

I was looking through some Scripture last night. I was searching for the places where God comforted His people by reassuring them that He was with them. Let me share a few with you.
• In Genesis 26:3, God met Isaac when he was a crossroads in his life, and said, “…I will be with you…”
• In Genesis 28:15, while Jacob was on the run from his brother, God appeared to him and said, “I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go…”
• Moses knew his time was drawing to a close, he was at the end of his life. He stood before all the people of Israel and reassured them, as I want to reassure you tonight. Moses said,

6 Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6 NIV)

• The Psalms are loaded with the promise of God’s presence. In Psalm 46:7 we read, “The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.” (Psalm 46:7 NIV)
• If any man ever needed to know the presence of God it was King David. David piled sin upon sin. He followed one bad decision with another, followed by another. Yet David knew that the promises of God are irrevocable. Our love and allegiance for God change like the seasons, but God is never changing, so David was able to write, “If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there Your hand shall lead me, and Your right hand shall hold me” (Psalm 139:9–10).
• The people of God were under attack so God encouraged them with these words. “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10 NIV)
• Jeremiah was given a message to speak to the people that was not well-received. In order to encourage Jeremiah to faithfully speak the message, God spoke to him and said, “Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you…” (Jeremiah 1:8 NIV)
• In the New Testament, the Apostle Paul was so convinced of God’s presence and the inability of anything in any place or at any time to separate us from His loving-kindness, that he wrote,

38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39 NIV)

God is with us and He is with us in the Savior who was born on Christmas morning, the one who is called, “Immanuel.” He is our Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace. I don’t think it is a mere coincidence that in Matthew’s Gospel the pronouncement of the coming of Immanuel is found in the very first chapter of the book. In the last chapter of Matthew, the final words of Jesus to His followers are, “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20 NIV) That is a promise for you regardless of what you are going through this very night.

The only question that remains is, “What will you do with this wonderful gift that God has brought your way?” Will you, like Ahaz, turn aside to make your own way through this life or will humble yourself before Him this very night and know Him as King, Lord, Savior…the One who is with you? Won’t you invite Him into your heart?

Mike Hays
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91st
OKC, OK. 73114
December 24, 2012

Immanuel: God is With Us!
Matthew 2
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