Sermon 12/13/20: Incarnation = Emmanuel (Advent III)

At this time, due to surging Coronavirus rates, the United Methodists Churches of our Illinois Great Rivers Conference are not holding face-to-face services. Please click on the link below to watch the entire worship service as a video on your home computer, tablet or smartphone:

Link to Video

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If you would prefer not to view the video, you’re welcome to use the links below to have a time of worship at home. (Just right click on the link to play each hymn or the sermon in a new tab, and close that tab when finished.)

CALL TO WORSHIP: Please recommit your life to follow Jesus as Savior and Lord with the words of the Centering Prayer: Lord Jesus, today I am far less than the person I want to be or can be with your help. I ask today that you would be more and more the center of my life. Guide me to all that is good, cleanse me from all that is not. Teach me Your ways and form in me Your nature. Help me to serve you in flow as I am gifted. Help me to notice my neighbor and work through me to redeem my neighborhood. I am a sinner; please be my Shepherd, my Savior and my Lord. Amen.

HYMN 218 It Came Upon the Midnight Clear
It Came Upon a Midnight Clear – Jars of Clay (lyric video) HD
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tJbNRtPVjZI

A TIME OF PRAYER (Testimonies, Joys & Concerns)

Congregational Prayer: God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.

Please pray for yourself and your neighbors, lifting up your needs to God while giving thanks for answered prayer.

The Lord’s Prayer: Our Father, who art in heaven; hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, for thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.

HYMN 196 Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus
Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus – Fernando Ortega
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0dmO8UPlWoo

MOMENTS WITH THE CHILDREN – If you are blessed to have children with you, ask them what they are thankful for, and then thank God together!

GIVING OF OUR TITHES AND OFFERINGS – these can be mailed to the church office.

MESSAGE: Incarnation = Emmanuel
Phil 2:5-11, John 1:1-5, 9-14, Matthew 1:23
Series: Those Methodist Rules

Right-click, open in new tab to play … Sermon audioSermon slides as a PDF file.

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SERMON NOTES

Philippians 2:5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God; 3 all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. … 9 The true light that enlightens every man was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world knew him not. 11 He came to his own home, and his own people received him not. 12 But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God; 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. 14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father.

Matthew 1:23 “Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel” (which means, God with us).

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HYMN 219 What Child Is This
What Child is This w/ Lyrics (Francesca Battistelli)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kQWKjTvPgiM

BENEDICTION: Let us dedicate ourselves to the service of Jesus by joining in the Prayer of Saint Francis:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace
Where there is hatred, let me sow love
Where there is injury, pardon
Where there is doubt, faith
Where there is despair, hope
Where there is darkness, light
And where there is sadness, joy
O Divine Master, grant that I may
Not so much seek to be consoled as to console
To be understood, as to understand
To be loved, as to love
For it is in giving that we receive
And it’s in pardoning that we are pardoned
And it’s in dying that we are born to Eternal Life
Amen

(If you wish, you can listen to this prayer being sung:
Sarah McLachlan – Prayer of St. Francis
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=agPnMxp5Occ )

If you worship at home, please let us know so we can pray for you!

TRANSCRIPT

Christmas time, the King of Kings has come, the Lord of lords, the Prince of Peace, the mighty and Wonderful Counselor Jesus Christ is born! But you won’t find him born in Rome, the capital city of the world at that time, the great and mighty empire of Rome. Not there. Not there.

A King is born, but not in Jerusalem. Not at the temple filled with its crowds and priests and all the activities of the religion of Israel. Jesus is not born there.

But where? In Bethlehem.
Archaeologist W. F. Albright studied the foundations of the ancient village of Bethlehem and estimated that the population of Bethlehem was around 300 people. It was a little wide spot in the road, on the highway toward Egypt, about 6.2 miles south of the center of Jerusalem. Just a little tiny town. But that’s where the King of Kings was born.

The most populous religion in the world today is Roman Catholicism. They have a city devoted to their church government. It’s called Vatican City. There’s actually a United States Ambassador to Vatican City. But the incarnation, the doctrine of what it means that Jesus comes to Earth didn’t happen in Rome. It didn’t happen at Vatican City. For some reason, God chose to bypass the famous and powerful, influential places in the religious world. The incarnation did not happen at Vatican City.

Nor did it happen in any capital city, even the capital city of the most powerful nation in the world. It’s almost as if God is not concerned with those worldly matters. The incarnation is Jesus coming into this world to be Savior and Lord. Where does it happen? It happens in Bethlehem. It happens at a wide place in the road. It happens in a tiny, little town. In fact, friends, I’ll be honest with you, it could have happened in this small city called Kinmundy.

Jesus Christ came to be with God’s people in a small town. And what the Incarnation means is this, it means that God is here. Jesus is here. Jesus is God with us. Jesus is Emmanuel.

And what does that mean? Here’s what that means. God has an address. God has an address. But maybe this place called Kinmundy with 800 people living here, maybe that’s too big a place. Maybe the place where it happens is this place … the Wesley United Methodist Church doesn’t exactly look like a stable, but it’s a quiet place in the country. And that’s the kind of place where Jesus decides to become real, here and now because, you see, God has an address. And now that God has an address, we can find him. His name is Jesus.

Matthew 1:23, “And his name shall be called Emmanuel.” Literally, one of the names given to Jesus Christ literally translates as this; God with us. No longer God far, far away, or way up there or, you might think, over there in Rome, or over there in Jerusalem. But God in a tiny little place, just like the little place where you and I live. Jesus is here. Jesus is real, right here, right now.

God has an address because God is with us. The Eternal God becomes a physical human being. Philippians 2:7 describes it this way, “But Jesus emptied himself, taking the form of a servant.” No longer the form of a god. The form of a servant being born in the likeness of man. A human being. Verse 8, “And being found in human form, He humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross.” God in the incarnation became a human being because it was God’s desire to be not only with us, but with us in human form.

And what comes because of that? Here is John 1, “In the beginning was the word–” Another name for Jesus, “–and the word was with God, and the word was God.” There is the doctrine of the Trinity right there. Verse 2, “He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him. And without Him was not anything made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of man. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

A few verses later, John has this to say, “The true light that enlightens every man who was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, yet the world knew Him not He came to his own home and his own people received Him not, but to all who received Him who believed in his name, they gave power to become children of God.” And here’s the whole understanding of the incarnation, the whole understanding of what it means to be Emmanuel right there in verse 14. “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us full of grace and truth.”

I’d now like to invite you to welcome Kim Kueker, who’s going to tell us a story of Emmanuel.

(Kim) It was Christmas 2017 that I understood Emmanuel, God with me. The story begins nearly 25 years before in March of 1993. I was lying in a hospital bed recovering from surgery and full of fear and anxiety. My life was not at all what I had expected. I planned to meet the man of my dreams in college, to get married, to start a family, and be in a career that I loved. None of that had happened. No man, no kids, no job, just a degree that I wasn’t sure I’d ever even use. No plan, just a handful of choices that had left me empty with regret. I laid awake. I could not sleep. I was full of fear, worry, and anxiety. I felt so alone. I prayed to a God that I didn’t really know. Desperate prayers of a woman without hope.

Now back to 2017 at Christmas, and here it was three months shy of 25 years later. I had been sick and dealing with abdominal pain for several months. Feeling too bad to gather with my extended family, I spent Christmas morning at home. Late in the morning as I rose from the couch, I felt something inside me rupture. It was clear that something was very wrong. I told David, “We need to go to the hospital right away,” and off we went.

In the emergency room, I was in severe pain. The doctors ran several tests and had lots of theories about what was wrong, but they really didn’t know for sure. One thing was clear, I had a severe infection and needed to be admitted for powerful antibiotics. In order to be admitted, I needed to have a doctor (a specialist). I didn’t currently have one. So two local practices were recommended by the ER doctor, who told me, “Pick one.” I did it knowing absolutely nothing about either one of them, except that both of them were accepted by my insurance program.

At the end of a very exhausting day, I sent David home to get some sleep. Both of us were so tired.

Another night alone in a hospital bed worried, “What’s wrong with me?” This time on Christmas Day, oh, the pity party began, and I was really feeling sorry for myself. Once again, I began to pray, but this time everything was different … this was a God I knew intimately. The Heavenly Father and a Savior, I’ve been building a relationship with and learned to trust for well over a decade. A God that over and over again provided for my every need. In my darkest hours, He was there. His Holy Spirit comforted me, calmed my fears, and filled me with His peace and strength. And then it hit me, Emmanuel. God is with me in this hospital room on Christmas Day night. I am not alone. God is here and I felt Him. His presence warmed me like a blanket. I began to weep tears of joy and gratitude as His peace filled my heart.

My mind went back to that hospital room nearly 25 years before. I remembered that fear and the loneliness that I felt. And then I started reliving the 25 years since every time that God was real to me. How I learned to trust Him. How He met my needs in overwhelming ways. How He gave me the gift of my husband and our wonderful life together.

That 22-year-old girl could never have imagined the beauty of my life today. And all of it is a gift from God. My Emmanuel, who became powerfully real to me in an empty hospital room on Christmas night. My God was with me and He still is. Little did I know at the time, but God was working powerfully in my life. The doctor that I selected at random became a powerful miracle for both of us. But that’s another story for another time. Even though we can’t see it and we don’t know what God is doing, He is always working things out for our good. It may just take us a while to catch up and realize it.

(Pastor Dave) Let me tell you the story of my own Emmanuel moment. It was 1998 going on 22, 23 years now, and I was in a very, very dark time in my life. A time to where I was certain, or if not certain at least aware, that I could lose everything. That everyone I trusted and depended upon would turn their back on me and that I would truly be alone. I was not living in my own house. I was living in a small room in the basement of a church member’s home about nine feet by nine feet. And I would lay my head down in the small twin bed and try to sleep. And in those days during the night, I would have panic attacks. I would wake up with my heart pounding as if I was going to die. And I would kneel beside the bed and I would open up my Bible to the Psalms.

Friends, I’ll tell you the Psalms are a great book of the Bible to read when you have complaints because in the Psalms people tell God how they really feel. And in the night I would read the Psalms and I would read how God would rescue and watch over his people and I would have hope that God would also take care of me. And during those very dark days, those times of trying to go back to sleep after panic attacks, I realized something extremely important. And that’s that no matter what happened with this world’s values, no matter what happened, whether I had a job or didn’t have a job, whether I was penniless, or whether I had a family or didn’t have a family, whether I would survive the next pounding heart panic attack or not, I came to realize and understand that one thing was more true than anything else in the whole world. And that is that nothing that could happen to me could separate me from the love of God in Christ Jesus, my Lord and Savior, that nothing could take him away from me or take me away from him … because even though that little room those days, that was my address, Jesus was also living there. Jesus never left me. Jesus said that he would never forsake me, and he never did. And I understood one thing. I could lose everything but I couldn’t lose the love of Jesus Christ, and I would never be alone because he will always be Emmanuel, God with me.

That’s what we celebrate at Christmas. That’s our understanding of the doctrine of incarnation, when Jesus came right here to be with us right now. And lives his life among us, and taught us, and yes he died upon the cross, but he didn’t leave us because God brought him back to life. You ask me how I know he lives; he lives within my heart. And that’s what Emmanuel means. God in Jesus Christ is with us.

Let me tell you a story that you’ve probably heard many, many times before. There was a man who lived a long and happy life, and the day came when he went to heaven. And there in heaven, he had seemed to him like he was standing in this great theater and on the screen in front of him was a movie of his life and the background of the movie was a shore where he and Jesus walked together in the sand. And he was talking to Jesus as he often did. But there came a time to where he looked back at the trail of footprints and he saw that during the hardest and most difficult times in his life, there was only one set of footprints, only one set of footsteps. And he turned to Jesus and he was very sad. And he said, “Lord Jesus, I don’t understand how in the worst times of my life, you left me to walk through those hard times all by myself.” And according to the story, Jesus looked at the man and said, “My precious, precious child, I never left you. Those were the times when I carried you, sometimes for miles.”

You’ve all heard that story but there are other parts to it. The man looked ahead past where they were and he said, “Lord, what are those big long ruts?” because there was a set of footprints. And right next to that, there were these big long ruts. What are those?

And the Lord said, “My precious, precious child, that’s when I dragged you kicking and screaming all the way to live a new life. You kept wanting everything to be the old way and now you had to live a new way and you didn’t like it one minute. But I dragged you forward so that you could live in a new and a better world.” And the man said, “Lord, I’m sorry you had to drag me.” And Jesus said, “It was worth it.”

And they came around the corner and there was a place to where the footprints were all messed up, quite a scene of chaos. And the man looked at Jesus. “What horrible disaster happened here? And Jesus said, “That was one of the best times of your life.” And the man said, “Jesus, well, what’s all this mess?” And Jesus said, “Son, that’s the time when we danced and danced and danced and danced.”

Friends, Jesus is God with us. And if he has to, he’s going to drag you kicking and screaming until you live life His way. And there will be times he’ll also carry you. But there are going to be times of joy where you and He will celebrate, where you and He will dance because you see, the Incarnation means that God has an address. You know what the address is? It’s right where you are because Jesus is with you. Wherever it is that you are, Jesus is right here and right now and ready to be the Lord and Savior and Shepherd of your life. If there’s a better reason to dance and rejoice, I don’t know what it would be!

Please pray with me. Lord Jesus, there are plenty of days to where, particularly in this world that is constantly changing, you are dragging us kicking and screaming because we don’t want to adjust to the way things are today. We don’t want to give in. We are not going to give in. And there are times, Lord, in this world that is so discouraging and disheartening. Lord, it’s certainly true. We’re not going anywhere unless you pick us up and you carry us. But Lord, I ask that you would carry us anyway. And when we’re unwilling to listen, when we’re unwilling to grow up, when we’re stuck in the temper tantrums of a two-year-old because we just don’t like this and you’re not the boss of me, we say to God and we say to other people, Lord, in those days, you can teach us how to dance. Thank you, Lord Jesus, for being God with us this day and forevermore. Amen

QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION: Let’s have a conversation! Please reflect upon the questions below as you consider the material presented above. In a comment, share your thoughts and additional questions. What would you like to know?

What grabbed your attention?
What is the human need or problem?
What questions do you have about any quotes provided?
Does the Bible say anything about this?
What solutions do you see for the problem?
What specifically could we begin to do to make a change?

Additional Resources
Kinmundy United Methodist Church is located at 308 E. Third Street, Kinmundy, IL 62854. Worship begins at 9 am Sundays. The building is handicap accessible.
Wesley United Methodist Church is located at 3381 Kinoka Road, Patoka, IL 62875 in the country between Kinmundy and Patoka. Worship begins at 10.45 am Sundays.
VISION: We are a functional family of God, where Jesus is Lord and people grow.
MISSION: Every layperson is called to carry out the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20); every layperson is called to be missional. (¶126 of the 2016 Book of Discipline)
Paradigm: There are two kinds of people in this world: people who need to become disciples and disciples who need to become disciple makers.
 

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1 Response to Sermon 12/13/20: Incarnation = Emmanuel (Advent III)

  1. Judy says:

    Probably the best sermon I’ve ever heard. So reached my soul.

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