Immanuel

The following is not actually from one of my sermons. I wrote it for a newsletter, but as it is seasonal, I thought I would share it here, too.

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It is the time of year when at least one preacher can get, well, a little preachy. To prove this, all I have to do is look at some of my past December newsletter articles written for other churches.

I have to say, however, that what has bothered me in the past during December still bothers me now. It is the loud, secular “spend spend” message that can overwhelm the subtle, sacred message of Advent, a time when we should be anticipating Christ’s full and complete return. To the marketers, Christmas cannot come early enough.

By the time we get around to Christmas Eve and Christmas Day celebrations of Christ’s birth, many people have missed the purpose of Advent entirely and are too exhausted to experience fully the miracle of the incarnation. The actual Christmas season, which runs until Jan. 6, becomes an annoying afterthought, a house guest who has lingered too long.

(See, I told you I can get a little preachy this time of year.)

I have no earth-shaking, revolutionary solutions. I suspect the power of secular, commercial media will remain until Christ returns. I can offer only a simple strategy that might help us keep our minds focused and refreshed as we move toward Christmas.

At the beginning of the Gospel of Matthew, we hear the genealogy of Jesus and are reminded of our savior’s miraculous birth. “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord has 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.” (Matthew 1:22-23.)

Immanuel: God with us. Yes, they named him Jesus, but Jesus was and is God with us.

During the blitz of commercials, mute the television’s sound and say out loud, “Immanuel.”

In the frantic shopping, remember to whisper now and then, “Immanuel.”

In the lonely moments you may feel, call out, “Immanuel.”

And certainly, make time to worship, crying out, “Immanuel.”

God is with us, and God will make his presence fully known and undeniable one day. And on that day, even the marketers will rejoice.

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