Speaker: Ben Marsh
Scripture: John 1:1-18

The Christmas season is wonderful for many but can be lonely too. That’s why the message of the Christmas carol, Oh Come Oh Come Emmanuel, is so important. God did not leave mankind lonely or alone. Find out more as we explore how the birth of Jesus changes everything.

From the series Sounds of Christmas

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Full Sermon Transcript

Well, good morning. My name is Ben and it is my privilege to share from God’s Word with you this morning. We’re continuing on in a series called Sounds of Christmas. And as we just sung and as you just heard again, our song, our Carol, our hymn today is Oh, come oh Come Emmanuel, which is a beautiful, beautiful hymn that has deep roots, as we’re going to see in the Christian church and has actually a lot to say, not only about leading up to the Christmas season, but has a lot to tell us about the nature and the character of our God, a God who is willing to go the distance, who is willing to come to us as we’re going to see in a little bit as we prepare our hearts and minds for that. I would love to start with this question for you. As we think about a God that’s willing to come to us. How about you? How far would you go to help fill in the blank?

How far would you go to help your best friend or your own mother? How far would you go to help your next door neighbor? What about your mother in law? How far would you go to help her? What about the coworker that you always try to avoid because you don’t want to get cornered by them? You don’t like talking to them or the one neighbor that you don’t get along with. How far would you be willing to go to help them? And I think there’s actually a direct correlation between the distance that we’re willing to go, the help that we’re willing to offer someone and the depth of the relationship. How deep is the relationship is going to determine how far you’re willing to go for them. And now, as I think about this, it makes me think of this not only this Christmas season, but about travel.

Anybody traveling for Christmas at all? Going a little bit. I think back to when I was in college. I went to a university in Chicago. My family grew up in, you know, I grew up near Bay City, Michigan. So it’s about a five and a half hour, six hour drive. And one of the first years that I was there in Chicago, I had always used to be my dad’s old truck, but it was my truck. Now, when I inherited it from him, it was a Ford F-150 that had 260,000 miles on it at the time I was driving it, it was probably knocking on the door. At least this time around was a near 300,000. And right before I went to travel home for break for Christmas break from college, I had a flat tire and a flat tire in the parking garage. And so I had triple-A call Triple A. They came out there was a full size spare, so they replaced it and taken it out, thought nothing of it.

So the time came. Finals are done and time to head home. I get into the truck and start to travel through Chicago. Traffic. Anybody drive to Chicago? Yeah. Yeah. It’ll make you pray or say other things, but it’s unique. And so it’s all stop and go. All stop and go. Traffic. I mean, I’m not going faster than 15, maybe 20 miles an hour tops, all the way towards the skyline and then away from the city. And then finally hit a stretch, a highway that’s open a little bit. And I start going 20, 25, 30, 35, 40, 45, 50, 55, and the truck shake shaking violently like it’s about to break apart. And the car pulls up alongside me and they’re waving and screaming, frantically pointing at my back tire. The one that had just been replaced. And by the grace of God, I’m able to get off on this busy highway in the Chicago land.

And I get out of my truck and I walk and I walk back and I look at this tire that was sideways and I reach down and I turn the lug nuts with my fingertips. So I make a call out, Dad, what do I do? Okay, well, they’re loose. You still have all the lug nuts, right? You still have all the lug nuts. Okay, well, that’s already loose. There’s probably something going on with it. They weren’t tightened. Right? So everything’s loose now. You really got to tighten that thing on there. Really tighten it on there. And then don’t go so fast. Stop and check them every 30 miles. So I type numb. I do like a pattern tighten. I’m tightening, tighten, put all of my way, put all of my effort into tightening these ones and snap one of them off, which I know what you’re thinking. Wow. Yeah, that makes sense, man.

Of course you’d snap it like that off. It’s like that’s not supposed to happen, guys. You’re not supposed to be able to snap lug nuts off. So I keep driving, I follow my instructions. I drive in every 30 miles or so, I pull off, I find where I can pull off and I tighten them and I tighten them. I tighten them because I don’t want this thing to wobble anymore. I don’t want these violent shakes. I want this wheel to fall off while I’m driving. And I get out one of these times and I’m tightening up, tightening time. I snap off a second one. So at this point, I’m in Indiana getting close to the border of Michigan, what was supposed to be a five and a half, six hour journey. I’m probably already 5 hours into, but I’m still pretty far from home. I start making my way up the west side of Michigan a little bit and I get out.

And now I’m a little bit more hesitant. I’m still tightening, I’m still tightening and doing so a little bit more gingerly, maybe a little bit more often. And one of the times that I stop on the west Side of the state, stopping every 30 miles, they snap off number three, you’re not supposed to drive when there’s just like three lug nuts. You’re definitely not supposed to drive on to lug nuts. So I call my dad and thanks B that he actually answers my phone call. This is like 10:00 at night already at this point trying to get home for Christmas. And not only does he answer my call, but he actually has means to help me. You see, he actually owns an excavating company, so he gets one of his trucks in one of his trailers, drives out to the west side of the state, loads the truck up and drives me back.

So it didn’t get stuck somewhere on the west side where it had to be fixed and it could be fixed over Christmas break in my hometown. I’m thankful for that. There was a relationship there. There was a distance that needed to be traveled and some help that needed to be done to get me all the way home. That’s actually what we see in this him that we’re singing for him that you just sung is a call from God’s people as we reach out to him. Oh, come. Oh, come. Will you come help us? It actually dates all the way back, possibly to the sixth century. There’s a couple of different dates that I found online, but there’s the earliest is saying that the early church back to the sixth century, that there’s reference to this thing called the old antiphon. That’s all the chorus, that’s all the verses that could be sung, which is a total of actually seven verses in Latin in the early church.

And they would sing it the seven days leading up to Christmas, which is where we find ourselves right now. What’s also unique about these is their ordering. We start with, Oh come on, come. Emmanuel is our very first verse, the most familiar verse, and really the verse that we’re going to be focusing on this morning. But it actually goes in this order. It’s a wisdom. Oh, name of God, a root of Jessie, a key of David O. Dayspring, O King of Gentiles. And each of these verses is not only theologically, but biblically rich, where you’d have to go back and see what Scripture is this referring to, and why is this the name of Jesus? And actually every single one of these antiphon every single one of these verses finds its roots in the Old Testament. But there’s one that actually has roots not only in the Old Testament, but has a reference in the New Testament as well.

We’ll see that in just a minute. So also kind of curious is not only the beauty, the history, but the amount of the Bible that’s actually contained in this. But there’s actually like a hidden code even here in the Latin, because if you take the first letter of every one of these words and you put them in reverse order, you end up with the Latin phrase Arrow cross. Anybody speak Latin now? Well, neither do I, but I have Google and it says this in Latin it is. I will be present tomorrow. So the seven days leading up to Christmas in the history of the church, for now, over a millennia, we’re singing, we’re calling out to God, God, come, God come, God, come in all these different names. And then inside of the song itself is the God’s response. I will be present with you tomorrow. I am coming. It’s a beautiful thing.

It’s just hidden in there that unless you actually knew Latin, unless you knew that you would never see it. We don’t have time to focus on all of the verses. There’s again so much richness to each of these before our time. I think it’s worthwhile for us to look at the one that’s most familiar and that contains this most important name of who Jesus is. Oh, come, Will, come Emmanuel and Ransom, Captain Israel. That is to save God’s people ransom captive Israel that mourns in lonely exile here until the Son of God appears. This is direct reference not only to the New Testament name Emmanuel for Jesus, but the Old Testament reference where we see it first prophesied that this would be one of the names of Jesus. And one thing also to highlight here on this verse for you is this lonely exile here.

That is why this has a melancholy minor tone to it, because as the people are calling out to God and asking him to come to travel the distance to make the difference, they’re in a dire situation taken from their homeland, taken from their promised land and in slavery, and oppressed by a form of by a foreign nation. And then, even at the time of the New Testament, when this is being told and prophesied, they’re back in the promised Land, but they’re still a foreign nation that is oppressing them and taxing them. So we have this melancholy tone. It’s actually the brokenness of the world is actually the place from which we’re calling out to God to be Emmanuel. It’s in the old the New Testament. I mentioned it so it’s in Matthew in This is Easy to Remember. Matthew One, two, three, Matthew 123 and Isaiah 714 say these same words.

The Virgin will conceive and she will give birth to a son and they will call him Emmanuel, which means God with us in the New Testament. This is being said to Joseph through a dream by an angel as he’s being told that No, no, no, don’t divorce, Don’t, don’t leave. Mary, This is actually the son of God. And here we see this. It will be his name. But back in the Old Testament, this was being prophesied to a king telling him that his people are going to be taken away into exile, the lonely exile that we sing about. And that hope would eventually come and it would come through a son, through a child, and his name would be Emmanuel. He would be called God with us. Now, this is among, I believe, one of the most profound names. Certainly all the names of God are profound.

But during this season, this is one I think it’s worthwhile for us to focus in on and to hone in on it, because there’s so much goodness about who our God is. It tells us about his character. It also tells us something about ourselves as well. And so I would love to just take you through this. Name one word at a time, God with us and focusing first on this word, God. And I think at first blush we maybe you’ve been in the church for a little while. Yes, I get it. It’s God. Jesus is God. But I think it’s worthwhile for us in this season, especially to slow down and to value what we’re actually singing and saying and what we actually mean when we say that Jesus was born fully man, but also fully God. Because you see, the whole world will celebrate Christmas, won’t they? And they’ll be fine with this idea of a manger scene in Nativity and that Jesus was a person in history somewhat even be okay with the idea of him being a prophet and him having some great teachings.

They’re okay with that. But when you get down to Jesus being God, all of a sudden you draw this line and there’s a there’s a reason that during Christmas that we often have to say, Jesus is the reason for the season. Do we have to say that during Easter? It’s pretty clear what the reason is for Easter here. It gets clouded by all these other things that are transpiring. And it’s it’s fine to have tradition is, oh, that’s fine, but that it can be lost in these muddied waters of what’s happening. A child’s being born, but it’s it’s God who’s being born now in Matthew and Luke. We actually have this nativity scene of Jesus actually being born. And the book of John’s really unique just as a whole. But the way he begins is not with the Nativity that was shepherds or wise men, but begins with Jesus and he begins with Jesus not in the place that we normally think of him. It starts off this way in John Chapter one.

In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God and say this one with me. And the word was God. He was in the beginning with God, He was God. So in the book of John here, clear as day opening verse, it’s telling us that Jesus the word is God, not God. That was born at some later day and we got to wait to manger scene for Jesus to show up. But here in John and Colossians and Hebrews and Galatians, we see that there are verses that are pointed to through God’s Word, that Jesus is preeminent and pre existent from from all time, that He is the second person of the Trinity. It goes on to say this All things were made through him, and without him, not anything made was made that was made in him was life. And that life was the light of men. The light shines the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.

There in Jesus, we have the second person of the Godhead who created all things, and all things were created through him, by him, and for him it is worthwhile again to slow down and to evaluate what we’re actually saying here. That God who existed outside of time and space, that now we have this universe that they’re measuring at 14 billion light years across. Is this God who breathed all of that into existence, that he had the design of the DNA of your very body, that he knew the solar system in this and how it would be all spaced out. He knew all of these things and spoke them into being that the author of all existence is now writing himself into the pages of history. This is what’s going on here. This is why this is most important here to start with this name God, Jesus is God. Again, it’s worthwhile to talk about because I don’t believe the whole world believes that.

I know the whole world doesn’t believe that. And this is one of the clearest marks of a Christian. Jesus doesn’t some great teacher. He’s not some guy that was just born 2000 years ago. He is the preexisting second person of God who entered into history in flesh and blood, and that is the God that we’re calling to when we sing out this him. Oh, come on, Come God, be with us. Because who are you going to call when you have a problem? Fill in the blank. Who are you going to call when there’s a multitude of different problems that any of us have even right now in my case, in that opening story. Right. My problem was that I had a truck that had like three and a half tires. Right. It was almost a bad, bad situation for me. But what happens when something goes wrong in your house if your dishwasher breaks, if there’s a leak in your roof, who do you call?

If you have water in your basement? What about if you’re having trouble with one of your kids and how to parent them? Where do you turn it? If you have a problem at work, things are not going very well and you’re not sure if that’s going to be the place that you’re working even in the next year, who do you call? What if your finances are completely sideways and you don’t even know how you’re going to get through the Christmas season? Is there a number that you’re going to call? I think based off of all those different circumstances and you fill in the blank, whatever it may be for you, there’s a different number. There’s a different person on the other side. I mean, many of us, especially if it’s related to anything financial, we would like a number for someone like this.

Does anybody know who that is? Warren Buffett, last I checked, worth about $120 billion. There he is taking my phone call. Now, if you had his number, just just go there with me for one sec. If you had Warren Buffett’s number and he answered the call and he actually helped you out, I mean, that would be a pretty good deal, right? Hey, Warren, I need a new roof. Yeah, no problem. The time that you spend on the phone with him, for him to replace your roof, he made more money than your roof cost. Right. Well, what’s also unique about this kind of situation, if you had someone that was in power that had access, especially in this case, just the finances, to be able to help you out and they’re gracious enough to actually help you, this is still not as good of a situation as we have with God.

Is Emmanuel God with us. Because here you have a phone call that you’re making, you’re reaching out. They’re gracious. They love you, they’re willing to help, but they’re not with you. They’re not in the problem with you. They’re not actually empathizing. They may be sympathizing, but they don’t actually feel that same pain. Actually brings us to our second word. We have God creator, sustainer of the whole universe. This is who we’re talking about. Second person of the Trinity, Jesus. And that he was going to be with. This is not a new idea from the Old Testament to the New Testament. Actually, oftentimes in the Old Testament, God, speaking to his people, is saying, I’m going to be with you. Just a couple of references here. Isaac and Jacob, hear from God. God tells them, I am with you, Moses.

I will be with you, Joshua. I myself will be with you. God is always interested in his creation, even in their brokenness. He is interested in the dynamics and the relationships of his created beings. But there is something different about how God is choosing to be with how He’s choosing to show up to us in the person of Jesus. That is unlike these. These are this, this. These are the dress rehearsals for the big show that was actually going to be Jesus moving forward in our text in John, it says this The true light that is Jesus, which gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world and the world was made through him. Yet the world did not know him. He came to his own and his own people did not receive him. He was coming into the world, writing himself into the pages of history, the God that’s coming close to us. It starts to sound like a good thing, but you really, really think about it.

When it comes to our human terms, there are times that being with falls short. Can you think of a time and maybe it’s been heated here the last couple of weeks or maybe you’re going to head into it. Are there times that you are near others but you’re not with them? Are there times that you’re proximity would say, I’m with you, but everything about your disposition and your level of engagement with that other person says, I’m not really with you. I might look something like this. It’s actually I mean, it’s something that’s been on the rise. This idea of distracted parenting, just being distracted by your devices in general. One thing that I saw this last week so that even one in five parents will admit that they are distracted parent because of their phone, which then means if we really think about it, that four out of five parents are liars because they’re looking at their phones, too.

I mean, this hits home, doesn’t it? I mean, have there been times where a family gathering or even a time with coworkers or friends, people spend more time on their phone and they’re in close proximity. They are near you, but they are not with you? I have to admit that it was even here this last week, and this is not the only time, but I can’t even recall what I was like. If it was a response to a text or a call or whatever it may have been. And I remember my wife saying, Ben, Ben, Judah, trying to talk to you. And I was just so sucked into whatever I was doing. I wasn’t present, I wasn’t there. I mean, so that’s the first challenge of being with. Being with means more than just being close to it means being with engaging with. Here’s a second problem that I see when it comes to our humanness and our ability to be with you.

There are times that we can actually be not only close in our proximity and we’re close in our attentiveness, but we’re just powerless. About two years ago, just a little bit over two years ago, many of you that are members here, maybe you recall that my family went on this like marathon of going to the hospital, I think seven or eight times. Within three months, there was a contest between my youngest two children to see who could get more days at Royal Oak, Belmont. And nobody wins in that situation. And there I am with our boys being admitted to the hospital for this, that and whatever else it was. And I’m attentive. I’m not on my phone, I’m present, I’m there, I’m engaged, I’m listening. I want to know what the diagnosis is. I want to know what I can do. I am as attentive as anyone could possibly be. But the problem is with just simply being with in that way, when you’re not the right number to call, you’re powerless.

You can be with all that you want, but you can’t do anything to actually affect any sort of change or change of circumstance whatsoever. What’s unique, though, is we’ve already identified that Jesus is God the Creator. This sustainer, the one that spoke everything into being so he can do something and he’s choosing to come close, to be with, to be with not only in proximity but in relationship. When we get to our last word, us, here’s where it gets really messy. He has power. He’s close to us, but it’s us. See the verse as we just read. Let’s highlight a couple of different words on here in John. It says this He was coming to the world. He was in the world and the world was made through him. This is all good. Yet the world did not know him. He came to his own in his own people did not receive him.

The creator of all things, the one who thought you up, the one that knew your DNA, the one that knows every single hair on your head. The one who has actually ordered everything. Single one of your days and my days. The author of all history was stepping into history himself and his people. His created beings, didn’t recognize him, didn’t know him, and didn’t want anything to do with him because they’re far too preoccupied with this world and the troubles of this world, or wanting to rule their own world that we didn’t know him. And still he’s coming. He’s coming close to us because we see that there are many and various problems that each of us face who’s a who’s a person that’s going to help with the dishwasher, the room for the relationship or this or that.

But the real problem, the greatest problem that each of us has actually is an outside of us, but it’s actually within us because God is coming to people who are not just aloof or apathetic to who God is, but we actually, by our own fault in nature, are in opposition to him that we want nothing to do with him because we want to pursue our own lives. We want to keep our own sin. And this is the God that’s coming. He’s not coming into the world when everything is working out just fine and we’re attending church a lot, We’re doing really well. He’s actually coming in to the most broken point in history, knowing full well all the things that everyone had committed will commit. We’re going to commit, which includes you and I. And he was still willing not only to come to be close, but to put on that sinful flesh and blood that each of us carry to be identified with us. It says in John 114 that the word became flesh.

He didn’t just come to be near us, he came to be one of us, and he dwelt among us. And when we see him, we’ve seen his glory, the glory of the only son from the Father, full of grace and truth. Thank God the word grace is in there. Because if Jesus came Creator, author of the entire world universe, history is coming in and He is holy and righteous and he’s coming near us. And the US that he’s coming near to is tarnished with sin and a heart is only inclined towards evil again and again. Then this is bad news for all of us. It is only bringing truth because the truth that he would bring into the world would shine. Not just that the world is a dark place, but we have a darkness in our own hearts that were more preoccupied with ourselves that we don’t really want to have to do with God, that we are too busy for God, or that we have sinned in our lives, that we acknowledge.

But yet we keep or we struggle and we strive against sin, but we relapse into the same thing over and over again. And God knows this full well. So he comes with this truth to show us that yes, there is sin and that has separated you and the distance between the holy and righteous God and these sinful people that he’s not only coming to be near, but to be one of couldn’t have ever been greater. Yet he was willing to bridge that chasm chasm because of his grace as well. He was willing to come near you not only in whatever broken situations you find yourselves in, but he’s willing to come near you, even in your sin. He was willing to come near and put on flesh and blood to be incarnate, to take on the same flesh and blood, not just so that we’d have a God who could do something because he could already do something, not just to have a God who would be within near us because he had been within near us.

But he was coming to be with us fully as a human being incarnate that not only would he experience every single suffering that we have, every single sin that we have, so that we would know full well that we would never be alone, never be alone in any circumstance, and never be alone or caught in our sin in a way that we could never be found. Because he went and saw you out. So you can fill in this blank with whatever you want. Your God is with you in whatever it is, whatever it is, whatever situation it is. If it’s a diagnosis that you didn’t want, that means that you have less days than you ever thought you would have here on this earth. If it’s if it’s something about a relationship that is now tarnished, if it’s something about your finances that is broken, if it’s the fact that you have a loved one who is no longer here and you’re walking into the holiday season for the first time without them, that your God is with you in that that God loved us enough that you would be willing to be incarnate as Christ to tell you, to show you perfectly just how much he cares.

There is a God that was willing to do something about all of those problems. And the biggest problem again being your sin and my sin. And there as he’s incarnate, he’s taking in his own flesh, his own blood, that he is being nailed to a tree with every single one of those sins so that there would never be a doubt in any of your minds that there would be something that could separate you from him. He knew full well what it meant to be incarnate. He knew, and he chose to write himself into history, to step down from his glory into full humility. And because of that, now we have what we hear in these following verses. We have grace upon grace. We hear the truth, we see our sin. And now moving forward, we have grace upon grace, blessings upon blessings from a God who would be willing to put on flesh and blood for us.

And because of that, God being with us means this. Now that we have the hope of being with God, that there is nothing that can separate you from this side of eternity. It is broken, it is dark in times is painful. But no matter how deep the darkness, no matter how much the pain your God is with you in it, and more than that, because he’s with you in it, because he was willing to bear it. He’s done something about it through his son’s death and resurrection. Now you have the hope of being with him and you get to be called one of his children, because if we receive him, receive that gift of faith, anyone who believes in his name, he gave the right to become children of God. You’re not born of blood. You’re not born of flesh, you’re not born of your own will or any sort of work that you could ever do.

You didn’t need to clean yourself up. He came to you when you were in the muck and mire of your own sin that you have become a child of God by God. And this, this, this reality is just dawned on me this last week. It is now through this incarnation, this most critical theology that we have a doctrine. Truth from Scripture is because of his incarnation, it means that you’re now a new creation because Christ was willing to put on flesh means that you now have the hope of being a new creation no longer tarnished by sin, but clothed completely in his righteousness, and is from that as believers where you’re no have to walk around with our heads hung low, knowing the full weight of our sin, but knowing that you have been forgiven of all of those things because God was willing to step into history for you.

Now, because of that, it raises the question for us as believers, we really believe this. We have an incarnate God, a God who is willing to go the greatest possible lengths for all of us. He was willing to be not only God with us, but he was willing to be God with you. And it raises the question how how can you be with others this Christmas? How can you be incarnate in your life? How can you be fully present, fully attentive? I mean, whoever was at the beginning, who is that you’re willing to take a call for? Who’s a willing that you’re going to go the distance for? I mean, there’s people that we love that we would do anything for, and there’s people that we don’t love yet. God’s call to each of us through his actions is that we would do likewise, that we would go to those that that sometimes rub us the wrong way that have hurt us.

We would go to those that we still have unforgiveness in our heart towards and we’d be willing to be incarnate, that we’d be willing to show them the love that God has already shown us. And so my encouragement to you this week is to to go to God and ask Him for us to thank him for all that he’s done in the Incarnate Jesus. And then and to ask him who is it that he’s laying on your heart that you might be with, and how might you be with them? How might you show up not just be fully present, but step into their suffering, bring them good news, invite them to church, fill in the blank. I can lay that on your heart and tell you what that is, that we would have it in a heart incarnation or way that this congregation, these people that we as people live out in the world. And through that that’s not necessarily fixing all the brokenness out there, but willing to suffer that brokenness with others and then point them to Christ, one who wants to make them and wants to make you brand new.

So with that in mind is to thanks be to God that actually today we actually get to experience firsthand this incarnate God, because not only to God show up as a baby over 2000 years ago and then become a man, but he’s willing to shed his body and blood for us. And that’s what we get to experience here this morning through communion, not just a meal that’s just a symbol or just remembrance, but rather the very real, the very incarnate flesh and blood of your Lord and Savior who’s willing to forgive your sins. And so at this time, I invite you to pray with me, to prepare our hearts and minds to receive this meal. Heavenly Father, God, we thank you for your Word, and we thank you for this word, Emmanuel, that we have a God who is with us. Let us call on it again and again and be reminded that we have a God who is come close, who is willing to put on flesh and blood for us, even in our brokenness. Right now we do pray that by your Holy Spirit, that you would call to mind all the ways that we have fallen short, all the ways that we have missed the mark and not lived up to your good and perfect will and our thoughts and our words and our deeds pray that those things will be called to mind by your spirit right now.