Sermon at First Presbyterian Church Lockhart

"Teaching Love"

Isaiah 7:10-16,  Psalm 80,  Romans 1:1-7,  Matthew 1:18-25

December 19, 2010  by James Greene

 

           Have you ever considered the importance of the birth of Jesus upon your faith and human history?  Have you considered God’s Love, behind that important event?  On this 4th Sunday of Advent we celebrate the coming of Christ into history.  It is not just the birth of  Jesus, the Messiah, but the intersection of God into human history.  We see this in our hymns and songs of the Christmas season.  Sometimes it is hard to jump-start the love and joy in our lives, because we are wrapped up in the problems of the present. 

This is a time to be joyful,  it is the anticipation and the celebration of the coming of the Lord; yet we are faced with the realities.  There are people laid off from work, just after Thanksgiving, only to show a profit on a company ledger.  There is the reality of the family member, who died this year and we miss their presence.  It is hard to find joy in the absence, and the sorrow.  It becomes a tough time of year.  It is the joyous expectation, and the clash of lingering disappointments, and loss in our lives.

           Yet we are reminded how God, in His Love, sends His Son into history, and changes all of history, that we may be saved.  The central theme from our readings is the message of God’s Teaching Love.

 

I  Teaching of Love– Isaiah

 

           In Isaiah, we see the prophesy of the birth of the Messiah in V-14.

The Lord is speaking to Ahaz whose name means “he has grasped”.  He was the king of Judah) from about 735- 715 BC.  He is an unlikely character. He practiced idolatry of the nations that surrounded Israel.  He is the one who burned his own son as an offering recorded in II Kings 16. 

He aligned himself with Tiglath Pileser III the king of Assyria. 

           Now the only reason I know about Tiglath Pileser the Third is because in my Old Testament class at seminary, we learned that he was the one in history who started the practice of up rooting entire populations and removing them from their land and putting them into slavery in another part of his kingdom.

This practice is what later caused the Hebrews to be carted off into slavery in Babylon. 

           Verse 14 seems to be completely out of context with the passage.  Ahaz is worried about the tribe of Ephraim (northern Judah) and Damascus (Assyria) coming to lay siege to Jerusalem.  He is told by the Lord to “ask for a sign” from the Lord.  Knowing his history, he is not about to ask God for a sign and put God to the test, because to do that is to die for the nonbeliever.  The prophet tells Ahaz that the Lord will “give him a sign” that the land of the 2 kings (Ephraim and Damascus) will be destroyed.  This resulted in Judah being saved from its enemies, because God was with them.                                                                                 1

Because God loved his people he saved them, in spite of their King.  At the time of Jesus’ birth, some 700 years later, these 2 kingdoms were laid waste, and God again, is with his people in the person of Jesus.  (EmmanuelGod with us)

 

II God’s faithfulness Teaches Love – Psalm like Isaiah

 

In Psalm 80 is an over view and outline of the purpose, of the coming of the Messiah and the call to God, to save his people.  It is a plea of the psalmist who calls upon a righteous God, to be righteous.  He also calls upon God to be with Israel, that they may be saved. 

 “O Shepherd of Israel is the metaphor used to describe God’s relationship with his people.  (23rd Psalm is another example)  This term shepherd, is used in the prologue in the Code of Hammurabi.  The deity’s role is to lead and protect the people.  It is a personal relation between God and his people in the Covenant. 

The Covenant was a binding promise from the King to the subjects:  from the one with power, to the powerless. 

The call to God, “Restore us” is used 3 times:  V-3 Restore us, O God. 

V-7 Restore us, O God Almighty.  V-19 Restore us, O Lord God Almighty.  All 3 calls ask that God to “make your face shine upon us,- that we may be saved”.  The plea is intensified with each request.  The word face in the Old Testament was where a one’s attitudes were most clearly expressed.  It was a dwelling presence.  Just as God dwelled in the midst of Israel in the wilderness, and in the smoke of the Temple, it reflects God being present and with his people.  This is captured in the Hebrew word Shekinah; means “that which dwells”.   The Shekinah reflects the nearness of God to his people.  It was God’s presence on earth.  Christ is Emmanuel. – (God With us)  He is God’s presence (the Shekinah Glory)dwelling in the flesh.  He is the living word, the presence of God that seeks us.  

 

In V-8 the word Vine is the symbol for Israel, and how Israel was brought out of Egypt, prospered, and now is being destroyed by the nations around it.  God is asked to watch over Israel, and calls it the son you have raised up for yourself.  It is an image of the Messiah, and an allusion to Jesus.  We see how God’s hand (God’s power) is asked to rest on the man at your right hand.  Christ is the Vine and we are the branches.  He is the True Vine, and God is the Vinedresser.  If we are the followers of Christ,-  He dwells in us, and we in Him.  Christ teaches God’s presence and love.  It is to be reflected in and through us, as part of our connection to Christ.  If Christ truly dwells in us, then we are the branches of God’s Vine, and produce fruit.

   

It is a simple metaphor.  The warning and the message of Christ is, that we are the branches, and He is the Vine.  We get all of our life nutrition from Him.  Christ, and we produce the fruits of the Spirit.  If we are not “in Christ”, and do not produce fruit, then God, the vinedresser, cuts off the nonbearing branches, and throws them into the fire.  In light of this example, we must bear fruit “that we may be saved.”

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III Paul’s Teaching of Love to those Called Romans

 

In Romans, we see Paul’s introduction to the book with its lengthy description of Paul’s call, identity, and purpose as an apostle to bring the gospel to both Jew and Gentile through the power of Christ’s resurrection.   His identification is being in Christ, and Christ being in him.  His proclaiming the Good News is to all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be Saints.

 

IV The Teaching of LoveMatthew

 

In Matthew, we see the prolog to the birth of Christ.  It is the realization of God dwelling in human flesh, and truly is Emmanuel“God with us”.

We see Joseph’s character in his response to Mary’s pregnancy.  He is described as a just man.  His first insight was to divorce her quietly, so as not to bring dishonor upon her.  He is her husband.  He is devoted to Mary.  Joseph was obedient to the instruction of the angel, and the fulfillment of the prophesy in Isaiah.  His naming of the child “Jesus” (as the father) made the child legitimate (in the society), and a part of the lineage of David.  Through this action, he was a reflection of God’s divine purpose, and love. 

The meaning of Jesus’ name (Yeshua) is “God is salvation”, “God saves”, or “God will save”.   It is the reflection of Christ’s purpose revealed in the psalm, “that we may be saved.”  He is God’s dwelling presence.  He is God’s glory revealed in Christ.  This is Christ coming to us teaching us God’s love, as the living example.  Christ comes in the fullness of history to “save us”. 

Christ is the Living Word with its Shekinah.  It is God in his earthly dwelling, in Christ.  This is why Jesus is identified as The Word.  He is the presence of God with us.  God has come to dwell in the flesh of Jesus Christ.   He is the spiritual and physical dwelling of Emmanuel“God with us”.

 

IV The Conclusion Summation: God’s Love, What’s It All About?

 

We see how God as theShepherd of his people” sends his Son the redeemer who comes to, rescue and restore not only the nation of Israel, but also, all people.  Christ comes to redeem all who allow him to dwell in them and bring forth God’s Presence and God’s fruits of the Spirit. We know that Christ is the Vine, and “God with us”.  He is the redeemer who “saves us”.   He has “come in the fullness of time” showing us the living example of God’s love in this season of Joy and Hope.

John 3:16 is a reflection of the depth of that love.

We have only to trust in His presence with us, God’s care for us. 

Because it is Christ within us, who comes

Teaching the Love of God,  that we may be saved

 

           In the Name of    the Father,   the Son,   and the Holy Spirit.  Amen

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