Call His Name Immanuel

In the name of the Father and of the ☩ Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz: ‘Ask a sign of the Lord your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven.’ But Ahaz said, ‘I will not ask, and I will not put the Lord to the test.’ And he said, ‘Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary men, that you weary my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.’

Isaiah 7:10-14, English Standard Version

These words were given from the Lord through the prophet Isaiah in the time of King Ahaz. King Ahaz reigned in Jerusalem during a time of great distress and turmoil. There was war all around them on every side, and the nation that was leading most of the wars – a nation called Assyria – had their eyes set on Jerusalem.

The result was the whole city of Jerusalem, both king and people, were filled with fear about what was going to happen to them. And so, to comfort them, the Lord sent a prophet. He sent Isaiah to tell King Ahaz that things would be alright. He only need wait for the Lord, and the Lord would act to defend them from their enemies, to save and rescue them. This would be the sign that the Lord is with His people, “The virgin will conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” Immanuel, is Hebrew for “God is with His people.” 

In a number of ways, our times are not so different from King Ahaz’s. We also live in a time of conflict, of war and social upheaval – both around the world and in our own country; and we, likewise, are filled with fear. We’re afraid of what’s going to happen to the world, what’s going to happen to the country, what’s going to happen to us. Yet, the Lord gives to us this same sign He gave to Ahaz. “The virgin shall conceive and give and bear a son.” This prophecy, though delivered some 700 years before the birth of Christ, is fulfilled in Jesus.

We hear in the Gospel that this passage is about Jesus: that the Virgin Mary conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and gave birth to the eternal Son of God. This is the sign to us that the Lord is with us – to forgive us, to bless us, to defend us,  and to save us from our true enemies of sin and death.

This is why we are here tonight. We recognize that the way of the world is not good. Neither are our own ways always righteous. We are here this evening to worship and sing praise to God, but if we reflect on our behavior this past year, we have not always behaved in God-pleasing ways. And by this, we mean we have sinned. We have deserved this year the punishment of sin, which Scripture says is death. 

But rather than pour out His wrath on us our God has poured out His mercy and His love. He has sent His Son Jesus Christ to take on our flesh and to be born of the Virgin Mary. He was born so that might also suffer and die for us. This is why we call His name Immanuel. Jesus Christ, even in the manger, is God with us to forgive us, bless us, to defend us, and to rescue us. 

In the name of the Father and of the ☩ Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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