Immanuel, Jesus Christ our Lord

Scripture Readings:

  • Romans 1:1–7
  • Matthew 1:18–25

Paul names his commitment to Christ as servant and to the gospel of God as an apostle. He mentions his commitment to all those called to belong to Jesus Christ, especially the Gentiles. He is identified by commitment to his calling, people, and the gospel. 

Paul used a term “servant” that would have shocked the Gentiles in the church at Rome. Rome was filled with slaves, and to be a slave to the Gentile mind was to be at the bottom of the social order. However, Paul’s use of the Old Testament term “servant” was not for social class purposes. The Gentile believers learned that Paul had given up his freedom and willingly submitted himself to Christ Jesus. He became a servant in response to God’s grace, writing from a jail after finally making it to Rome. But grace and faith were also God’s gifts, and God invited him to become His servant.

Paul was sent by the Jewish leaders to capture and imprison believers in Damascus before his conversion and was passionate about it. However, he was more goal-oriented after his conversion than before. He was an apostle who was sent by Christ after his conversion, and willingly entrusted and subjected himself to the plans and purposes of the Lord who was his master. He lived only to do the will of God.

Paul was preparing to tell them more about the gospel than they had ever heard, and he wanted them to be saved with their faith and full attention. It was about the gospel of Jesus Christ our Lord who conquered death and the grave by the power of God. God wants us to spread the gospel and gives us the words “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Rom. 10:13, Joel 2:32). The name of God is the object of praise. May we praise the Lord and convey the gospel through our commitment.

Paul referred to believers as saints twenty-nine times in his letters. In calling the believers in Rome saints, Paul is saying that they also are set apart as holy, as spiritual, as called by God. We are already called to be saints and Jesus’ disciples and continually going to be sent by our Lord to accomplish his mission. In this season of Advent, may we pause and rethink where we are and what we are doing, and make sure that we are where we have been sent by Christ. God wants us to respond obediently to the grace and faith they have received. May all we have eyes to see as Jesus saw and to respond as Paul responded. Paul’s letter shows us a life lived in light of the coming of Christ.

The call of the Advent season is a call to renew our commitment to Christ and others. May we discover evidence of the transforming power of the grace of God in our lives and look back and appreciate what happened to our will and behaviour.

Today the church continues to offer redemption and hope in Christ through faith and love, and the unity of Christians in one body is basic to Christian faith. Messianic hope was reinforced by the Bible statement that Jesus would be called Immanuel which means “God (is) with us.” The name “Immanuel” is a divine promise that God will be with us even during all crises.

In Matthew, Mary’s miraculous conception by the Holy Spirit is announced as a fact without explanation. Joseph, who is described as a righteous man, has a dream in which an angel explains to him that Mary’s pregnancy is of divine origin. The circumstances and stories surrounding Jesus’ birth prove him to be the promised Saviour. The gracious mystery is “Immanuel”, Jesus Christ our Lord. 

Joseph is unaware of the journey that will take Jesus from Bethlehem to the cross. God opens a door for us, or gives us a vision, leading us to trust and follow. Even when God has called people to do something unexpected, many believers just went without a map and direction. 

According to Aaron Klink, as Mary and Joseph journeyed to the first Christmas, they did not know where God would take them. All they knew was that something wonderful had been promised and that they had been called to follow. Today’s text calls us to follow God’s call, not knowing where the journey will take us, or the path that God has set before us.

As in verse 20, Joseph had learned to “trust and obey.” When Joseph was approached by God through the angel, he accepted his role and did precisely as he was instructed by God. Mary and Joseph learned that the only way to follow God was to “trust and obey” his word. 

God will use anyone for his purposes, no matter how unlikely. God uses the humble and willing rather than the arrogant to accomplish his greatest missions on earth. May we humbly make ourselves available and ready to be used by God and allow him to accomplish his purposes through us. In obedience and trust, may we learn to place our trust in God’s protective care and timing. I pray we can serve the Lord with joy, even during the dark and difficult hours.

As Paul was a servant, called to be an apostle, and was set apart for the gospel, may we serve the Lord, follow him as disciples, and be set apart for the kingdom of God. A person’s identity will be revealed in what is said and done, and a heart for God will be revealed in a heart for people. A heart for people will be revealed in a heart for the gospel.

Regardless of the trials and problems that attend us, we would be with Jesus all the time. When a life calling should be based on eternal values and truth, what do our words and actions reveal about our identity? How are we proving our love for the gospel message? How would we describe our life’s purpose and calling? Jesus is the ultimate fulfillment of all God’s promises to Israel and to us. The prophetic text that Jesus fulfills is Isaiah 7:14. As commentators point out, the emphasis from the Hebrew text is not on a virgin birth, but on a symbolic birth. However, Matthew’s emphasis is not on Mary. It is on Jesus as Emmanuel. Jesus will manifest God’s presence to the people he is coming to save from their sins.

Jesus is Immanuel!  May we build a love for God and share the gospel with others in Christ. God has opened a path for us to be in constant relationship with his mercy and love. He makes ways for us to move forward to serve the Lord as saints, servants, and disciples. God is good, and God keeps promises. May we praise the coming of the Lord and the glory of God’s powerful love. I hope that Leighmoor congregation will be strengthened, prepared, and deepened by the love of God and the Spirit-filled blessings. 

Thanks be to God! Amen.
(Ref. Bible, commentaries, theological books, UCA materials)