Resources for Discussion Class Hour on December 27, 2017

Resources for Discussion Class Hour on December 27, 2017

Sermon Title: Immanuel: God With Us

Text: Matthew 1:18-25

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Brief summary (what’s the point of this text/sermon?)

The birth of Jesus gets a lot of attention this time of year, and that’s good: Scripture strongly emphasizes it, including a lengthy account in Luke, a shorter one with different details in Matthew, and a deeply theological one in John. When cultures appropriate biblical stories, though—especially with something as commercialized as Christmas—we run the risk of missing the essence of the event itself.Perhaps no word distills the meaning of Jesus’ birth as beautifully and completely as Immanuel. Jesus is “God with us.” He is both God and Man. We see his deity in that Mary was a virgin when she conceived and gave birth to him; he had no earthly father, but rather he was conceived “of the Holy Spirit.”

We see his humanity (he is “with us”) in the fact that he was born as every other human being has been born, yet in more humble circumstances than many. He was born to Mary, a remarkable young woman in so many ways, but a woman who was completely human nonetheless. Jesus was a helpless baby—totally dependent on his mother as she held, patted, nursed, bathed, and changed him.

Imagine that—God as a helpless newborn! And yet that’s how God chose to come to us. The Creator of heavens and earth—the One who spoke the galaxies into existence—came to be with us as one of us, subjecting himself to the limitations and frustrations of human existence in our world.

And Matthew sums it up with this word: Immanuel. He is “God with us.” God among us, in us, and for us.

It’s no coincidence that Matthew ends his gospel with these words: “I am with you always, to the end of the age.” He came to Bethlehem to be with us, and he remains with us to this day.

How do I live out the implications of these passages? (Discussion starters to help with applying the sermon to our lives)

  1. Christmas is obviously a huge holiday in our country and throughout the world. How does its commercialization drown out the historical basis for its celebration?
  2. Jesus seems to have taken advantage of his culture’s celebration of Hanukkah, a holiday that had developed in the time between Malachi and Matthew (see John 10:22-23: the “Feast of Dedication” is what is now called Hanukkah; this holiday is mentioned nowhere in the Old Testament). How might we follow Jesus’ example and take advantage of heightened spiritual interest in our country to sow seeds of faith?
  3. If God is all-powerful, why did he choose to come to earth as a human being? Why didn’t he just speak to us from heaven and tell us what we needed to do to be saved?
  4. Why did God come to earth as a helpless baby? Why didn’t he descend to earth as a fully grown man?
  5. Why did God choose to be born into a poor peasant family instead of one that was wealthy, or at least middle class?
  6. How might some of the popular depictions of the Nativity Scene obscure what Jesus’ birth may have been like?
  7. What are the implications of Jesus having a normal human body in which he sweated, got tired and hungry, felt real pain, and cried?
  8. What is the significance of the virginal conception of Jesus? Why did Jesus need to have a miraculous birth? How is a virginal conception more significant than other miraculous births of the Bible (e.g., the birth of Isaac, John the Baptist, etc.)?

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