Fourth Sunday of Advent

Matthew 1:21, 23
She will bear a son, and you will call Him Jesus; for He will save His people from their sins.
Behold the virgin will conceive and bear a son, and they will call Him Emmanuel, which translated is ‘God with us’.

            This is the Gospel, the Good News, the Evangelion! In Jesus you are saved from your sins, that God is with you, on your side, bringing you life, light and love through Jesus Christ our righteousness (Jeremiah 23:6). We hear again and again of the true gospel, of evangelists, using the name Jesus and Immanuel, but do you ever sit back and meditate on this, reflecting on what this wonderful word means for you (Psalm 119:27)?

            Like worrying about cleaning and forgetting why we clean, do you forget what it means to be a Christian? Why we use these words and names, what they mean? Gospel, Godspell, is simply old English for God’s word, still kids have their ‘wording’ or spelling checked today. But Evangelion, the words brought by the Evangelist, it’s an old Greek word meaning Good Message, the eu from eulogy, and also angel Greek for messenger. Some examples from the ancient Greeks would be the news of victory against a foe, the birth of a king’s heir, or also a word from God. The Gospel is God’s good Word to you and all people, heralding, proclaiming, the victory over sin in Jesus the newborn King! You are saved! Forgiven and made righteous in Jesus, Immanuel, God is with you.

            And this is the meaning of these names Jesus and Immanuel. Jesus/Iesus, Joshua/Yehoshua from the Greek and Hebrew respectively, meaning The Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, God Almighty, creator and judge of all, He saves. And yes, you need saving. Every person on this earth is afflicted, suffering and in need of help. We cry out, Hosanna, save us (Psalm 57:2)! We suffer evils from outside, and sin/failure from within. No matter how much we try to love every person we meet, to live the right way, to act according to the truth, you fail. You reject what is true, you refuse what is good, and you ignore what is beautiful. In short you sin, you separate yourself from God who created you, who loves and sustains you, who wants you to turn away from your sinful selfish ways and turn back to His love and truth, turn back, turn back for why will you die (Ezekiel 33:11)? Why do we separate ourselves from the love of God? Why do you continually go back to your way? You know that way, the easy road, the wide road, that road of sin leads to death (Matthew 7:13). Rejecting God’s embrace, sin separates you from God. The sinner who sees God’s face will die; the pure, holy, righteous glory of God will destroy them; we know this from the scriptures about fire coming from God’s presence to burn up those sinning against Him (Exodus ). We who sin cannot approach God, we cannot work our way up to His righteousness, we cannot plead our case, we cannot even survive in His Holy presence. We can do nothing to save ourselves (Romans 8:5-11).

           But Jesus, He can. Jesus is God in the flesh, the Almighty one mysteriously came as a human just like us, yet without sin (Hebrews 4:15). The Son of God, second person of the Trinity, one with the Father and the Holy Spirit from eternity God from God, separated from us by our sin, came down to this earth, to the people who carried God’s Word through history, to Bethlehem of Judea, born the boy Jesus. We could not hope to come to God, so He in His mercy came to us. This is the Gospel, Immanuel, God with us. Because of sin we cannot approach the naked Glory of God, yet mediated through the humanity of Jesus fully united with His divinity, He approaches us. God and humanity were separated because of sin, now in Christmas God and humanity are united in Christ Jesus, reconciled, at peace, in all joy and love; God is with us in Jesus Christ our saviour.

And how do you know that you are in Jesus? All those who have been baptised in His name have been joined to Him, joined with Him in His death to sin and risen into His new everlasting life (Romans 6:3-11). Only in Christ Jesus is God reconciled to humanity, only in Jesus are we saved (), and you are in Him through Holy Baptism, reconciled to God and born again by water and the Holy Spirit (John 3:5). God is with us, Immanuel, you are in Jesus and He is in you who are baptised (John 14:20). As we share in Christ’s body and blood we receive again this Full and overflowing life and holiness that we already receive by the Holy Spirit and grasp in faith.

            This is the last Sunday of Advent, waiting for the coming of Jesus. Soon Christmas will be upon us, the celebration of the incarnation, God come as man that we might be joined with God; this is a celebration of the birth of Jesus, but also for we who are joined with Him it’s our birth. For every Christian is join with Jesus, into His life, His relationship with the Father, His victory over death and the devil. When our Heavenly Father looks at you He sees Jesus, righteous, holy and glorified. When Christ returns we will see this truth and live in it in Jesus. Saved from our sins, in Jesus God is with us, none can stand against (Romans 8:31). You are saved, holy and protected in Jesus, He will take away all your suffering, sin and evil at His return and until that time continue to provide His peace, joy and love by the Holy Spirit.

            So by the unity all Christians have with Jesus, I bring you the blessing of God. The peace of God which passes all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, now and forever. Amen.

Joseph Graham.