“Therefore, the Lord himself will give you a sign: See, the virgin will conceive, have a son, and name him Immanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14)
Isaiah gave this prophecy seven hundred years before the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem.
Immanuel. The description of the coming Messiah was to be “God with us.”
The impetus for this sermons series is one of my favorite Christmas hymns, O Come, O Come, Immanuel. I never realized the song was so dark. The second stanza asks that Immanuel “disperse the gloomy clouds of night, and death’s dark shadows put to flight.”
I’ve discovered that the song is dark because, as hopeful as the Immanuel promise is, Isaiah’s prophecy is dark itself.
We repeatedly choose to pull away from him, but God repeatedly chooses to draw near to us. Judah had removed herself spiritually from the Lord to a “far away” place, but still God pursued her. Judah made some bad choices and found herself in a dangerous place. And this Sunday, we’ll see that Judah was in a gloomy place.
Someone asked this week why my Christmas series wasn’t all candy canes and happy elves. But think, for a moment, about the themes of the Christmas story itself: infertility, gossip and rumors, divorce, shame, mass murder, astrologers, injustice, doubt.
That’s real-life stuff. And that’s where Judah was when God promised Immanuel. Certainly he is God with me in the happy times. But I am so very grateful he’s God with me in the dark and gloomy times, too.
Join us Sunday and we’ll discuss it!