Immanuel, God With Us

December 27, 2008

(This is an excerpt from Charles Spurgeon’s sermon on Isaiah 7:14-15, “The Birth of Christ,” preached December 24, 1854. I read this excerpt at our Christmas Eve service. You can read the entire sermon at this link.)

The Virgin Mary called her son Immanuel, that there might be a meaning in his name, “God with us.” My soul, ring these words again, “God with us.” Oh! it is one of the bells of heaven, let us strike it yet again: “God with us.” Oh! it is a stray note from the sonnets of paradise: “God with us.” Oh! it is the lisping of a seraph: “God with us.” Oh! it is one of the notes of the singing of Jehovah, when he rejoices over his Church with singing: “God with us.” Tell it, tell it, tell it; this is the name of him who is born to-day. . . .

This is his name, “God with us,”—God with us, by his incarnation, for the august Creator of the world did walk upon this globe; he who made ten thousand orbs, each of them more mighty and more vast than this earth, became the inhabitant of this tiny atom. He, who was from everlasting to everlasting, came to this world of time, and stood upon the narrow neck of land betwixt the two unbounded seas. “God with us”: he has not lost that name – Jesus had that name on earth, and he has it now in heaven. He is now “God with us.” Believer, he is God with thee, to protect thee; thou art not alone, because the Saviour is with thee. Put me in the desert, where vegetation grows not; I can still say, “God with us.” Put me on the wild ocean, and let my ship dance madly on the waves; I would still say, “Immanuel, God with us.” Mount me on the sunbeam, and let me fly beyond the western sea; still I would say, “God with us.” Let my body dive down into the depths of the ocean, and let me hide in its caverns; still I could, as a child of God, say, “God with us.” Ay, and in the grave, sleeping there in corruption, still I can see the footmarks of Jesus; he trod the path of all his people, and still his name is “God with us.”

But would you know this name most sweetly, you must know it by the teaching of the Holy Spirit. Has God been with us? . . . What is the use of coming to chapel, if God is not there? . . . Unless the Holy Spirit takes the things of Christ, and applies them to our heart, it is not “God with us.” Otherwise, God is a consuming fire. It is “God with us” that I love. . . .

Now ask yourselves, do you know what “God with us” means? Has it been God with you in your tribulations, by the Holy Ghost’s comforting influence? Has it been God with you in searching the Scriptures? Has the Holy Spirit shone upon the Word? Has it been God with you in conviction, bringing you to Sinai? Has it been God with you in comforting you, by bringing you again to Calvary? Do you know the full meaning of that name Immanuel, “God with us”? No; he who knows it best knows little of it. Alas, he who knows it not at all is ignorant indeed; so ignorant that his ignorance is not bliss, but will be his damnation. Oh! may God teach you the meaning of that name Immanuel, “God with us”! . . .

“Immanuel.” It is wisdom’s mystery, “God with us.” Sages look at it, and wonder; angels desire to see it; the plumb-line of reason cannot reach half-way into its depths. . . . “God with us.” It is hell’s terror. Satan trembles at the sound of it; . . . the black-winged dragon of the pit quails before it. Let him come to you suddenly, and do you but whisper that word, “God with us,” back he falls, confounded and confused. Satan trembles when he hears that name, “God with us.”

It is the labourer’s strength; how could he preach the gospel, how could he bend his knees in prayer, how could the missionary go into foreign lands, how could the martyr stand at the stake, . . . if that one word were taken away? “God with us.” ‘Tis the sufferer’s comfort, ’tis the balm of his woe, ’tis the alleviation of his misery, ’tis the sleep which God giveth to his beloved, ’tis their rest after exertion and toil. Ah! and to finish, “God with us,”—’tis eternity’s sonnet, ’tis heaven’s hallelujah, ’tis the shout of the glorified, ’tis the song of the redeemed, ’tis the chorus of angels, ’tis the everlasting oratorio of the great orchestra of the sky. “God with us.”

Now, a happy Christmas to you all; and it will be a happy Christmas if you have God with you. . . . Go your way, rejoice to-morrow; but, in your feasting, think of the Man in Bethlehem; let him have first place in your hearts. (me) All glory be to HIM – Immanuel, God with us.

Who is This Baby?

December 11, 2008

(For a version of this devotion that is easier to print, follow this link.)

Child of the stable’s secret birth
The Lord by right of the lords of earth
Let angels sing of a king newborn
The world is weaving a crown of thorn
A crown of thorn for that infant head
Cradled soft in a manger bed.

Eyes that shine in the lantern’s ray;
A face so small in its nest of hay -
Face of a child who is born to scan
The world of men through the eyes of man:
And from that face in the final day
Heaven and earth shall flee away.

By Timothy Dudley Smith, © Hope Publishing Company, 1983

At Christmas, we celebrate the birth of Jesus. Since we all love babies, it is easy for us to love the Baby Jesus. He is cute. He is fat. He is cuddly.

But babies don‘t start out cute and cuddly. And Jesus, indeed, was a real human baby, born in the normal human way: Mary began to have contractions; her water broke; she felt overwhelmed by the process going on inside her body; her back hurt; there was pain and effort and sweat and pushing and stretching and burning – and then, finally, amazingly, this new little creature came forth from her body: a new creature covered with mucous and amniotic fluid and blood and vernix – hair (if any) plastered to his head; that head possibly misshapen from hours of pushing, his skin bluish in color until the first breath, and first cry. Mary gave birth – and the baby, Jesus, came into this world just as you and I, through His mother’s strong efforts: bloody, slippery – and yet beautiful.

As you see pictures this season of a clean and comfortable Baby Jesus, remember His humanity. Jesus was a baby who soiled himself, spit up, cried when He was hungry; He was completely dependent upon his parents for meeting His every need. He could do nothing for himself. With His little hands, he grasped fingers held out to Him. He couldn’t communicate at first except by crying. He took months to learn to crawl, and more months to learn to walk, and to speak. Jesus was a normal, lovable human baby.

But Jesus did not remain lovable to many. Read more

What is a Healthy Church Member?

December 10, 2008

Thabiti Anyabwile is pastor of First Baptist of Grand Cayman. We were privileged to have him open Haggai 1 for us in early 2007 (here is the audio).  He also blogs at Pure Church.

We have benefited a great deal from using his latest book, What is a Healthy Church Member?, in our small groups this fall. Here is the study guide Fred and I developed for our groups. I hope a number of other churches will use this book to raise up healthy church members – and thus healthy churches – to God’s glory.

Open Your Mouth Wide

December 4, 2008

(For a version of this devotion that is easier to print, follow this link.)

For the last month we’ve had the blessing of having three children five and under living with us. Isabelle (5), Ezra (2), and Levi (6 months) have reminded us of the joys and challenges that were such a big part of our lives when our six children were young.

In particular, we’ve had the opportunity of feeding little ones. Levi, of course, needs the most help. But not because of lack of appetite! He is a tremendous eater. When the spoon stops coming because his plate is temporarily empty, Levi registers his disapproval in no uncertain terms. He feels hungry. He wants to satisfy that hunger. So he opens his mouth wide, again and again and again. He loves to eat.

Some little ones aren’t like Levi. They’re hungry, and accordingly fussy. They sit in their chair, crying because of hunger, but they keep their lips and teeth pressed tight together. They won’t open their mouths.

In Psalm 81:10, God instructs His people to be like Levi. He says, “Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it.” Just like Levi, we are to long for that spoon full of digestible goodies to enter our mouths; just like Levi, we are to close our lips around that spoon and savor its sustenance; just like Levi, we are then to open our mouths wide once again, and long for the next spoonful. Read more