Christmas Eve: God With Us

2020 Messages

David LeventhalDec 24, 2020


What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us. As we read about the birth of Christ in Matthew 1:18-23, we are confronted with two important questions:

  1. How should I think about God?
  2. What does God think about me?

The Gospel of Matthew makes it clear that God sent His Son, Jesus, to redeem and deliver us from the bondage of sin, to purchase our freedom, and to save us. We need Jesus because we are helpless to restore our relationship to God. That could only have happened through Immanuel – God with us. Jesus lived a perfect life, died a criminal’s death, and was raised from the grave – defeating sin and death. The only response required of us is to place our faith, and trust in Jesus Christ.

Key Takeaways

  • The weariness and exhaustion we experience today might cause us to ask if God is in control or if He sees our difficult circumstances. The coming of Christ is evidence that He sees our suffering and sent His Son to do something about it. Consider the world God’s people were living in before Christ’s birth:
    • It had been 400 years since one of God’s prophets had delivered the Word of God to the people.
    • God’s chosen people were oppressed from without by a Roman machine intent on conquering the world.
    • God’s chosen people were being oppressed from within by those who, instead of leading them to green pastures and still waters, “tied up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and laid them on the people’s shoulders” (Matthew 23:4).
    • In Matthew chapter 1, we see that God sends His Son to shine like a light in a dark world.
  • The name God gives His Son and the name God uses for His people demonstrate God’s great love for us. God says His Son will be called by two names in Matthew 1:23: 1. Jesus, which means ‘the LORD saves.’ 2. Immanuel, which means “God with us.”

What we must think about God:
* The Creator was willing to enter His creation as a man. As His Word says, Christ was born of a virgin (Luke 1:42-43) and is “good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” (Luke 3:9-11)
* Christ was not simply fully man. He was fully God and fully man from the moment He was conceived.
* The Lord chose to leave the perfect unity and fellowship and love that existed within the Trinity to subject Himself to the brokenness and dysfunction of earth.
* Jesus is the visible image of the invisible God. (Colossians 1:15–20)
* Jesus was the very fullness of God in bodily form, from His very first day on earth.
* Even as He was in Mary’s arms as a baby, Jesus was holding all things together.
* Jesus has always been King from eternity past, through His time in the womb, throughout His time on earth, at the moment he was nailed to a cross, and still as He rose from the dead. He is King today; He’ll be King tomorrow; He’ll be king forevermore!

What God thinks of you:
* God loves you. He thinks enough of you to enter into humanity – to walk our roads, to be betrayed, mocked, tortured & killed – for you. He has demonstrated His love for you in the fullest sense possible – God became a man, and that man became a sacrifice for your sins.
* God is for you. God sent His son SO THAT you could be brought near, reconciled, adopted, have your eternity sealed.

* God sees you. Have the challenges of 2020 left you asking, “Where is God?” “Does He see me?” The light of Christ that we speak of this Christmas is evidence that God sees you, and He sent his Son to save you.
* God wants to save you. Christ came to this earth to save you. If you have already trusted in the free gift of grace available through Christ, your Father rejoices over you. You have been adopted, and God has a new name for you – you are His child (John 1:12); His sons and daughters (Galatians 4:7); you are Jesus’ brother and sister (Hebrews 2:11 / Romans 8:29); and heirs (Romans 8:17).

* God wants us to experience peace, redemption, and adoption as His sons and daughters, and it is only possible through Immanuel: God with us. Just as redemption could not have happened without Christ and the cross, peace, hope, and reconciliation and eternal life with God cannot happen without Emmanuel: God with us.

Discussion Questions:

  • Who do you say Christ is? A historical figure? The Savior of the World?
  • How have your past experienced influenced your thoughts about God? Have you challenged those assumptions about God with the truth of God’s Word?
  • Are you seeking hope, restoration, and peace in the things of the world, or in the truth of the gospel?
  • How is this Christmas different for you now that you know the truth that Christ came to save you through His birth, life, suffering, on a cross death, and resurrection?

Suggested Scripture Study: Galatians 4:4-7; Hebrews 2:11 ; John 1:12; Luke 1:42–43; Luke 2:9–11; Matthew 28:16–20 ; Romans 8:17; 8:29

Well, how are we doing? It is so good to be together with you guys. Thank you so much for jumping in with us today. For those in this room, for those who are in other overflow rooms and maybe in a tent on campus and for those joining us online, we are really glad you carved out a little bit of time on this Christmas Eve to be together with us.

For all the kids in the room, we are so glad you're here. It's not very often we get to have kiddos in the room with us. So man, I just want to let you guys know we are thrilled that you're with us. I love Christmas music. Every year, Spotify tells you what your top songs and genres are. Two of the top five songs all year for me were Christmas songs.

Because I think, "Man, why wait until mid-December, or for some of you pre-Thanksgiving, to start listening to Christmas music?" Listen to it all year long. When it comes to a service like this, a Christmas Eve service, there are so many amazing things we could spend our time talking about. When you look at the first Christmas as reflected in the Bible, you have so many options to choose from.

You could talk about Mary and Joseph and what would've been immense societal pressure as you have this young girl who is pregnant and betrothed, so she is not married, and just the pressure there. Or the census where they had to go to be registered and Mary is in her third trimester riding a donkey to get registered. Then when she gets there, not having a place to deliver. Crazy.

We could talk about the shepherds who were out that night, minding their own shepherd business, and all of a sudden out of nowhere an angel of the Lord surrounded by heavenly hosts proclaim. We could talk about the wise guys who came from the east. As they followed and they sought to figure out where the star was going to lead them to, and they come to Jesus with their gifts. Those would be all worthy things to meditate on.

What I want us to spend our time, this little slice of time that we have together, on is really one small verse, a couple of phrases hidden in the first chapter in the gospel of Matthew that talks about this first Christmas. What I hope is that as we unpack these couple of verses it will put the wind in the sails of our hearts, that it will lift us with hope, and it will remind us of the things that are important.

I think, ultimately, my hope is as we reflect on those verses that it will help us answer two of the most pressing questions that have been asked by mankind for centuries. First, "How should I think about God? How should you think about God?" Secondly, and maybe more importantly, is "What does God think about me?" Man, those questions are relevant, aren't they?

Many of us have stumbled into this Christmas season, and we are tired, many are weary. Some of us may feel overwhelmed and underappreciated. Some of us may have rolled into the Christmas season and we're looking around at the chaos, and we're asking, "God, what are you doing? Do you even see what's going on around my life with my family, with my friends, with this country, with this world? Are you even aware?"

I think as we jump into this passage we're going to be encouraged because I know that we are not the first folks to ask those questions. As we roll back through history, we see a lot of seasons where God's people have been wondering those same things. As we roll back into the gospel of Matthew, into the first century, we're going to see God's covenant people, the Jews, are in a really tight situation themselves.

See, your Old Testament ends with the book of Malachi, the prophet, and then it moves into a long season, a 400-year season of silence where God has not sent any prophets to the land, and it seems like God has gone dark. He is not responding. The Jews in the first century, his covenant people, were oppressed from without by the vast Roman Empire that was seeking to take over the entire planet.

So they were experiencing oppression from without, and they were experiencing burdens and oppression from within because the men and the leaders of the nation who were supposed to lead them to still waters and to green pastures were instead tying up heavy burdens that were hard to bear. They were laying them on the people's shoulders, as Matthew tells us in Matthew 23. God's people were weary and tired. Some of them were overwhelmed and felt underappreciated, I'm sure.

I'm sure they were asking, like maybe some of us, "God, what are you doing? Do you see? Do you have anything to share with us?" Then out of the darkness, out of the silence of 400 years, a spotlight was Matthew, chapter 1. So we're going to read a little bit from Matthew 1. We're going to start in verse 18, and then we'll go from there. So if you have your Bibles, turn to Matthew 1:18. We'll have it up behind me. If you don't have it, that's okay. Read along with me.

"Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph…" That just means like legally pledged to be married. She had been legally pledged to be married. "…before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly.

But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, 'Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.'" See, Joseph. "'She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.' All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: 'Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel' (which means, God with us)."

Just in case you tuned out while I was reading that passage, I want to go back and I want to reread the last one. "Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel…" Matthew doesn't want you to miss the significance. So he says "…they shall call his name Immanuel…" He says in parentheses,a parenthetical note, "Just so you don't miss this: God with us." That's what it means. Matthew wants you to get it. He doesn't want you to miss it.

For most of us, names are a pretty big deal. What we want to be called is a big deal. What we want our children to be called is a big deal. Sure, sometimes we'll have some kind of lightheartedness. You may have named your kid Shelby because you're fascinated with Ford Shelby Mustangs. Maybe you went into labor in Macy's, so your daughter is named Macy or some other reason like that, but for many of us, we try to apply some level of thoughtfulness when we think about what we want our kids to be called.

I know Missy and I have tried to be thoughtful with our seven kids. We have a picture of our crew up here. As we started having kids and we wanted to be thoughtful about their names, we started with our son Daniel, who will be 18 in a couple of days. We named him Daniel after a guy who had a profound impact on my walk and understanding with Jesus as a college freshman, Dan Flynn. I wanted Daniel to have his name because he had such an impact on my life.

We went with Caroline for our number two, our 16-year-old. We named her Caroline Michelle because you may not know this, but my wife's real name is not Missy. It's Michelle. I wanted Caroline to know, "Hey Caroline, if you are half the woman that your mother is, you will be doing really, really well."

We had Lillian a few years later, named after my fiery Jewish grandmother out in Southern California. We had kid number six, Timothy Bruce, named after my brother Timothy and Missy's sweet great-grandfather Bruce. Then we had kid seven, and we were thinking, "This is probably the last one." I knew I had one shot left. So we went with Madison Davey because I was like, "If I'm going to get my name in there now, I have to do it now or never." So we went with Madison Davey, because we were thoughtful.

Hey kiddos, I would just suggest as you're driving home, you should ask your mom and dad where they came up with your name. That could be a fun conversation. Do you know who else was thoughtful about naming? Do you know who was more thoughtful about what people should be called? God is.

As you read throughout Scripture, you will see that names are a really big deal in the Bible. What God says someone is to be called is really significant. In this section of Matthew, we see that the Messiah is going to be called by two names. One is Jesus, which means God, the Lord saves, and Immanuel, which means God with us.

We're going to focus in on this second one, God with us, Immanuel. That's made up of two parts. So for us to really understand and appreciate and be encouraged and spurred on and find hope, we should really unpack what God with us means. We're going to look at, "What does it mean that God came to earth? Who is this God?" Then, "What does it mean that he was with us?"

Over the centuries, many theologians and Bible nerds have debated on what the greatest miracle in Scripture was. Most often it comes down to either the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead (not a bad one to make the finals) or the incarnation, which is simply that God took on flesh and became a baby. Both of those things are incredible.

Which one is greater? They're both pretty amazing. For the one that creates in my heart the wonder and the awe is trying to wrap my tiny brain around God stepping into our world, putting on flesh and blood, walking our dusty, broken streets, and engaging with us in our dysfunction. That to me is almost overwhelming. If he would do that, then of course God would raise him from the dead!

But why on earth would God come be a part of the mess that we have made? Immanuel, God with us. I think as we come to appreciate the Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace that Isaiah said this person would be, we will be better able to answer the questions, "How should I think about God?" and, "What does God think about me?"

So let's take the first one. God with us. God with us. A.W. Tozer famously wrote in The Knowledge of the Holy, "What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us. […] Always the most revealing thing about the Church is her idea of God…" When we look at this first Christmas story, when we unpack what God has left us in the Scriptures, we see that those who were around when the first Christmas happened had a pretty clear idea of what was going on.

You guys remember that Mary was betrothed to Joseph. Well Mary had a relative, and her name was Elizabeth. She was an older woman. It says that she was barren, and then God gave her and her husband a boy. She was pregnant. Scripture tells us that about her third trimester of pregnancy, Mary went to go visit Elizabeth.

So Mary had heard from the angel that she was going to bear a son, Jesus. So Mary is pregnant. She is going to visit her relative. It's about a three-day journey. She walks into Elizabeth's home. Listen to how Elizabeth greets her as soon as Mary walks into the home. Elizabeth says, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?" That's in Luke 1. So Elizabeth recognized this wasn't just Mary building a baby in her uterus.

This was her Lord who was being knit together in her womb. Later, we see in the gospel of Luke, as I mentioned those shepherds doing their shepherd thing out on that shepherd night. All of a sudden, the angel of the Lord appears and says, "…the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, 'Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.'"

This was not your typical baby announcement put on 32-pound bond paper. This was an announcement from the angel of the Lord wrapped in the glory of the Lord that the Messiah, the Deliverer, the King had come and was now on earth. Then we have the wise men who came from the east, it says, and they were tracking the star to find this King.

It says in the gospel of Matthew, chapter 2, "When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh." Did you see how those people who were involved in the first Christmas responded to the first Christmas? "My Lord, my Savior, Christ." They fell down and they worshipped, and they gave him gifts.

I think sometimes when we get in this season, we can mistakenly only focus on Jesus' humanity, his infancy, baby Jesus. When we only focus on Jesus as an infant, we miss the overwhelmingly big idea of Immanuel, God with us. When we focus only on Jesus as an infant, we risk missing the overwhelmingly big idea of Immanuel, God with us. Why do I say that? Because Jesus was not just a baby. He was fully man and he was fully God.

So let's consider who Jesus was, who Jesus is, and who Jesus will always be. I want to do that by looking at a passage in Colossians that Paul wrote. What I'm going to do as I read this passage in Colossians, I have replaced all of the pronouns… Remember that eighth-grade annoying grammar? All of the hims and hes? I've replaced the pronouns with the proper noun so that we can really dial in onto who was in the manger. Read with me Colossians 1:15.

" [Jesus] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by [Jesus] all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through [Jesus] and for [Jesus] . And [Jesus] is before all things, and in [Jesus] all things hold together.

And [Jesus] is the head of the body, the church. [Jesus] is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything [Jesus] might be preeminent. For in [Jesus] all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through [Jesus] to reconcile to [the Father] all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross."

What this passage lets us know is that as Jesus' cells divided, as his fingernails grew, as his organs were knit together in Mary's womb, he was at that moment the very fullness of God in bodily form. As Jesus was held by his mother, he was, in fact, the one in that moment holding all things together. As Jesus was wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a feeding trough, he was in his helplessness as an infant the very one who was preeminent over all things.

For us to fully appreciate the God in God with us, we have to allow our hearts and our minds to be transformed by who was in the manger. Jesus didn't become King as he grew. No, he was King within the womb. He was King as he was placed in the manger. He was King when he was nailed to the cross. He was King when he rose from the dead and when he blew off the stone that covered the grave. He was King throughout eternity past. He is King today. He'll be King tomorrow. He will be King forever and ever and ever and ever and ever.

So the answer to the question, "How do I think about God and God with us?" unfolds in our hearts as we meditate on how Scripture describes him. Christ, the Lord, our Savior, holy, Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Fully God at thy birth. When we get our arms around that and we begin to let that truth soak into our hearts and our minds, it should lead us to this next question which is, "Why would you do that? Why would God become man? That doesn't make any sense. Why would you do that?"

That helps us answer the back half of the question of God with us. What does it mean to be with us? I don't like to get out of my bed to let my dog out. And yet God sent his Son from perfect unity, perfect fellowship within the Trinity down to our dusty, broken earth. Why? Why would he do that? I mentioned just a bit ago Tozer, and Tozer said that the most important thing about us is how we view God.

I want to share with you the other side of that coin. C.S. Lewis wrote something different. C.S. Lewis did not agree with Tozer. Here's what C.S. Lewis wrote in The Weight of Glory. He said, "I read in a periodical the other day that the fundamental thing is how we think of God. By God Himself, it is not!

How God thinks of us is not only more important, but infinitely more important. …to be loved by God, not merely pitied, but delighted in as an artist delights in his work or a father in a son—it seems impossible, a weight or a burden of glory which our thoughts can hardly sustain. But so it is."

Did you hear what Lewis said? The Father doesn't pity us. He delights in us the way that a good father delights in his son or his daughter. So what's the answer to the question of, "What does God think of you?" The answer is that God loves you. It doesn't matter what you did last night. It doesn't matter what your year has looked like. It doesn't matter what your life has looked like up to this point. You are loved by God.

This wasn't C.S. Lewis' idea. He stole this from Scripture. This is what Paul talked about in Galatians 4, starting in verse 4. "But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law…" Why? "…to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, 'Abba! Father!' So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God."

So focus in on that so that. God sent his Son, born of a woman into this broken earth, so that you and I could be redeemed in order that we might be adopted. Or to put it another way, God sent his Son so that we could become his sons. God sent his Son so that we could become his sons. This is what Paul is saying in these verses. This is what the Scripture says in many, many, many other verses: that we need God to come get us. We need a Savior because we're broken.

The sin that separates us from a holy God is so infinite. It's not crossable. Our brokenness and the way we hurt others out of the hurt that we've been hurt with, the things that we say and do. The things that we don't do that we ought to do. The way we go our own path. We are broken and in desperate need of God with us.

So Paul says the Father sent the Son so that we could be redeemed. That's just a fancy word that means we could be bought back. We could be delivered from our sins. We could be made right with God. The way that we do that is by simply raising the white flag and saying, "I can't do this." If 2020 has taught us anything, it is that we cannot do this. We need a Savior.

Jesus came and he was born and he was put in a manger and he grew. He lived a life of perfect obedience in thought, word, and deed. Everything that he was supposed to do, he did. The things that he was not supposed to do, he avoided. He loved all persons to the fullness, and he was betrayed by one of his closest.

He was mocked. He was tortured. He was hung up on a cross. He was killed, but he didn't stay dead. Three days later, he busted out of the tomb. His busting out of the tomb, his raising from the dead is the thing that cancels out the sin that enslaves us if we will simply put our faith and our trust and our belief that he has done it all for us. We don't need to do anything else.

Here's the truth. None of that happens without Immanuel, God with us. There is no cross without Immanuel, God with us. There is no opportunity for our redemption without Immanuel, God with us. There is no adoption as sons or daughters without Immanuel, God with us. Our peace with God that we can experience in the midst of a crazy world doesn't happen without Immanuel, God with us.

Your brokenness, my brokenness, the healing that comes that's available to us as we begin to walk with Jesus today doesn't happen without Immanuel, God with us. So when you ask the question, "What does God think about you?" the answer is he loves you. He loves you enough to enter into our humanity, to walk our roads, to be tortured and abused, to be put to death, to be put into a tomb, and to be raised from the dead for you and for you and for you.

Because God loves humanity. God said, "If I need to send my Son to earth to be able to bring them back into relationship, that is a price I'm willing to pay," which is crazy. Because if you asked me which of my kids I would sacrifice for the salvation of somebody else? The answer is nobody. Not a single person would I sign off on that trade.

God said, "Not only will I do it, I'll do it for the people who are going to hang him on the tree." Immanuel, God with us. What does God think about you? He is crazy about you. I mentioned earlier that we named our kids thoughtfully, or at least we tried to. If you were counting, you'll notice that I have seven kids, but I only rattled off the names of five of my kids.

See, we have five biological, and the Lord has brought two of them to us through adoption, Joshua and Abigail. We adopted Joshua about 10 years ago when he was around 3 years old. We adopted Abigail about 13 years about when she was about a year and a half old. When you're going through an adoption process, you get to a point in the process where there is a legal declaration that Missy and I are now the permanent legal guardians of these kids.

There comes a point in the process where these kids are now legally, permanently our children. As Missy and I thought through, "What do we want them to be called?" we decided we would hang on to some of their Chinese names, but we wanted to give them a name that we wanted them to be called.

So with Joshua we went with Joshua, which means the Lord saves. Because I want Joshua to remember every time he hears his name and he thinks about how should he think about God, I want him to remember that God, Joshua, is Savior. The Lord saves. Abigail, my daughter. Abigail means a father's joy. I want her to remember every time I whisper her name that she is a joy to her father.

When she has to ask herself, "What does God think of me?" I want her to remember, "I'm a joy to the Father." You're a joy to the Father. We have been adopted. As broken and jacked up as I am, if I can become this overwhelmed about my kids, what does God think of you? He loves you.

He made a way so that you could be redeemed in order that you and I could be adopted. When we were adopted by God, we were given new names. God calls us something different. John 1:12 says that we are his child. Galatians 4 says we are sons and daughters. Hebrews 2 says we are Jesus' brothers and sisters. Romans 8 says we are heirs with Christ because we are his children. We are loved. Immanuel, God with us.

Father, thank you for even just these few moments to be reminded of your unbelievable care for unbelievably sinful, wicked people. I thank you for the first Christmas. I thank you for Immanuel, God with us. I thank you that you were not content to just merely watch us from afar, but, no, you entered into our pain. You entered into our brokenness. You brought mercy. You brought kindness. You brought justice. You brought grace. You brought healing.

You brought our adoption, and we are forever indebted to you for that. I pray for any in this room who don't know you, who have never entered into the family of God, never been adopted by you through Jesus that today, this Christmas Eve would not be just one more that they would tick off of things they have to get done before Christmas, but that this would be the day when they fully come to terms with Immanuel, God with us. Would you make that so? In Jesus' name, amen.