“God With Us,” Week 2 — The “When Will I Be Loved?” Sermon Rewind

Yesterday’s message …

  • Was one of those I felt good about from the moment I prepared it back in early October;
  • Used an analogy with a $20 bill that seemed to connect with people;
  • Was SUPPOSED to reference Linda Ronstadt (give the message title) … yet at all three hours that line completely escaped me;
  • This line, however, did not. The message’s bottom line was this: He became one of us because he adores all of us.


Here’s something that I know is true, almost without exception: you hang out with people you like. It’s how you roll. Now: there may be exceptions, like if you’re in a large group and a person or two in that group wouldn’t make your list of favorites, they kind of annoy you. But by and large, if you have a smaller circle, a posse, your homies, it’s people you like. These are relationships you choose and time you spend because you want to. This is why for a lot of you the Thanksgiving you just had or the Christmas you’re gonna have has that bit – or a lot – of tension to it. Because you’re related to those people by BLOOD and not by CHOICE, and there’s a big difference between the two.
And for a lot of you, it’s not only why you got on vacation with that friend or why if you’re a Panther fan you “Panther” with those friends, it’s even why you go to the church you do, and even why you’re in the LifeGroup you’re in. And even more importantly, if you’re married, this is part of the reason why you married the person you did. You enjoy spending time with that person. If that’s not true – either you married someone you despised from the beginning or you’re friends with a bunch of folks you don’t like to spend time with – we have therapist numbers in the lobby. Because in general, you hang with people you like. You are fond of them & you enjoy the time.
You may be wondering why I spent any time at all telling you something that seems so obvious, especially since we have Xmas to get to. And the reason for that is, well, that we have Xmas to get to! Because at the beginning of the way Matthew tells the story – way before that baby was away in a manger in the little town of Bethlehem – Joseph of Mary N Joseph has an encounter with an angel. He’s already gotten the disturbing news that his fiancé Mary is in the family way, he also knows that her apparent irresponsibility is not his responsibility, and he further knows that because of all of this that she won’t be saying yes to the dress and he won’t be having a bachelor party and there is no pretty wedding in sight. Look at 1:18-19:

18 This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about[a]: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet[b] did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.

Divorce? Huh? They’re not married yet! Well, in that time, engagement was even more significant than in our time because it involved agreements and assets between parents, so to break it off required quite a lot, including divorce. So Joseph wants to protect himself and preserve Mary’s remaining dignity.
And then, apparently, he sleeps on it, which is only occasionally a good idea in Matthew because angels have this annoying tendency to show up then. Which one does here. Look at 1:20-21:

20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus,[c] because he will save his people from their sins.”

The name “Jesus,” then, is what he does – saves people from their sins. And then Matthew adds this narrator’s note in in 1:22-23:

22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”[d] (which means “God with us”).

All this was foreshadowed in Isaiah 700 years earlier, Jesus fully fills the longings of the entire OT; things that happened THEN, Matthew says, prepare us for what’s happening NOW, and just when it seems Matthew is on a good roll there’s a twist: and he shall be called Immanuel, God with us. Does this mean Jesus had two names? No. Does it mean Matthew was temporarily confused? Hardly. No … “Jesus” is what he DOES (saves from sin) while Immanuel is who he IS God with us. Activity. Identity.
And those words God with us is strong affirmation not just for a cool series title and not JUST because it lets us know this incredible thing that some people say the bible is not clear on: Jesus is God. The bible IS clear on that, abundantly so. But there’s another reason these words are so revolutionary for me this year. Jesus willingly cohse to leave heaven’s glory to live in earth’s dirt. He gave up the bright lights of heaven for the darkness of the manger and the emptiness of the cross. The child that virgin bore existed before she even got pregnant. Mind. Blown. And his with-ness is rooted in his character … he hangs with us not out of obligation, not as a chore, but as a loving, celebratory choice. He’s like you: he hangs with people he likes; he sojourns with people he loves.
And I don’t know if you know this or not, but God with us in this form is such a departure at this stage of the bible. Before now, when people see God, it is TERRIFYING. Job gets a tornado. Even been in one? Abraham gets a smoking furnace. Moses gets first a burning bush and next a pillar of fire. To be with God up to know has been to be terrified by him. And now, in Matthew? A baby! Could the difference be more dramatic? Or more purposeful?
And when you peel back they layers, you see that it is a choice, a decision, where he doesn’t just come WITH US but he actually becomes ONE OF US. That 90s song asked What If God Was One Of Us? And the answer is: He did. A long time ago. And the effects of that surround us every day. But here’s the thrilling, mind boggling thing, the thing I have been overwhelmed to learn and overcome with eagerness to tell you. Ready? He became one of us because he adores all of us. Yep, that’s why he did it, that’s the essence of WITH-NESS. He hangs not just with people he likes, but with people he loves. And not just loves, absolutely adores. And that includes every single one of you. He became one of us because he adores all of us.
You know what is most amazing about this? He is WITH a bunch of people who didn’t much want his company. He wasn’t invited. He just decided. We didn’t want him but we sure needed him. Propelled by all consuming love, an adoring love of which you are the object of the most intense variety. You didn’t earn it. He didn’t adore you because of your credentials or you resume but because of his divine decision. Linda Ronstadt may have asked this question – play clip – and if she’d read Matthew 1 she’d have known the answer: from the moment she was conceived. And there’s not a thing you can do about it. You didn’t earn but and you can’t stop it. He became one of us because he adores all of us.

It all makes me think of when we brought Taylor, now 30, home from the hospital. All I wanted to do was hold her. And guess what? A three days old, she let me. I just smelled her head, held her tight, and felt stuff I’d never felt before. Maybe some parents here know what that’s like. She hadn’t been good. Or bad. She just was. And in that moment I realized: this is what it’s like for God. I’m the object of the same kind of love I am now feeling! And all he wants me to do is let him love me. He became one of us because he adores all of us.
Or it’s like this $20 bill. How much is it worth? STOMP. How much is it worth? Slight tear. How much worth? Fold up and discard. How much is it worth? Yep, still $20! You’ve been treated like that by family, by friends, by spouse, by …. Church. It does not change your value one bit. He became one of us because he adores all of us.
Or it’s like this: Video clip Derek Redmond’s dad. GB’s Derek Redmon went down with an injury during 400 M race in the 92 Olympics when this happened:

PLAY CLIP. That’s it. Leaving the glory of heaven, entering the field of battle, assisting us who are wounded, carrying across the finish line. Think that dad doesn’t love that son? He became one of us because he adores all of us.
We have a few folks at Good Shepherd who’ve spent time behind bars. Guess what? Adored.
We have a few more than that who have had stints in rehab for drugs and alcohol. Guess what? Adored.
We have even more who have had seasons in behavioral health units and even to this day struggle to get their meds right. Guess what? Adored.
We have more folks who longed to hear from mom and dad precisely what was withheld: I love you, honey. Guess what? They., you: Adored.
And then a lot of you … your life has gone smoothly. Never arrested. Never addicted. Relatively few crises. Guess what? Adored. REFRAIN
So: what about you? The “Us” in Matthew 1’s God With Us is an offer to all that’s really accepted only some. Whoever is willing to lay aside credentials, put down resumes, downplay how much you deserve it. That’s “us.” And whoever it is there’s no success I could have that would make you love me MORE and now failure I could be part of that would make you love me LESS … those folks are the ones are know the truth of God With Us. Some of you may never have had that understanding until today. If that’s you, oh, embrace that the Gospel AT THE SAME time helps you see how lost you’ve been and how loved you are. See that, rejoice in that, today.
But even more on my heart are those among you who know in your head that God loves you, who have spent half your life in church, but ultimately these words and this story is SO FAMILIAR in your mind that it has lost any real meaning. That’s the real tragedy – that you can be inoculated by a drop of God’s love so that you’re never truly drenched in it. You are the ones on my hear today.
Because know this. If you’re blasé, if you take it for granted that you’re not tolerated, you ADORED, that God only hangs with people he’s crazy about, then other voices are crowding out the one voice who adores. It sounds something like this:

CACOPHONY recording from Granger 07/08 that we did before where it builds and I cut through it with God adores you.