"Behold! The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call Him Immanuel" (which means, "God with us").
Isaiah 7:14); but the fitness of their application to Christ, now that he has come to fill in their meaning, makes the first use of them of small moment to us. For us they are a description of the birth and nature of our Lord.
I. THE VIRGIN-BIRTH. We may be sure that it was not in order to throw any discredit on the sanctity of marriage that God so ordered it that his Son should be born from a virgin, The New Testament honours marriage as truly as the Old Testament; and St. Paul, who is sometimes regarded as unfriendly to it, describes it as like the union of Christ with his Church. What, then, is the significance of the virgin-birth?
1. A mystery. It is right and reasonable that he who comes from the bosom of the Father should enter this world under circumstances that we cannot understand. Nevertheless, we may see to some extent what this means.
2. A miracle. Men of science have pointed out that this miracle is not so difficult to believe in as many others, because parthenogenesis is known in nature, though it is not found among men. Here, then, is something beyond the range of what happens in human experience, yet according to the known working of God in other spheres.
3. A holy birth. This is not the case because virginity is in any way more holy than marriage. Nevertheless, it has occurred to many that possibly the transmission of seeds of evil may have been avoided by this miracle. At all events, we know the fact that Christ was perfectly pure and stainless from his birth.
II. THE DIVINE NATURE. The human name of our Lord is "Jesus" - a name that describes his work on earth. His prophetic name is "Immanuel," one that reveals the deeper mystery of his mission.
1. The fact. In Jesus Christ we see the union of God and man. God is no longer a distant Being seated on his throne above the heavens. He has descended to this earth. It is difficult to think of God as the Infinite One who inhabits eternity; the very idea is so vast that it seems to melt away into vagueness. It is intangible; we cannot lay hold of it. But Christ we can see and understand. In Christ God looks at us with human eyes, speaks to us in an earthly tongue, touches us with a brother's hand. That this is so we can believe, not because we are informed of the doctrine of the Incarnation on authority, but just because, when we come to know Christ for ourselves, we can see God in him.
2. The grace. This great truth lies at the foundation of the gospel. All Christianity is built on the Incarnation. Although men may deliver one another from minor ills, only God can save from sin. Therefore, if Jesus is a Saviour in the deepest sense of the word, he must be God as well as man. But this is only one side of the subject, he must be also "God with us" - as the Fathers represented it, the hand of God outstretched. He saves us by bringing God into us. - W.F.A.
Child.I. Christ came AS GOD WITH MAN.
1. To live with man.
2. With man, to die for him.
3. With man, to rise from the dead for him.
4. With man, to ascend and intercede for him.
II. GOD IS WITH HIS PEOPLE.
1. He is with them in their lives.
2. In their labours.
3. In their trials and afflictions.
4. In their worship. In death and in glory.
(C. H. Wetherbe.)1. The IMPORTANCE OF THE EVENT TO which Isaiah looks forward, and which the evangelist describes as fulfilled.
1. The occurrence was of a preternatural character. To raise us from degradation Christ Himself must be sinless. Evil had descended. How was this fatal entail to be cut off? The virgin birth was the answer.
2. Christ's birth marked the entrance into the sphere of sense and time of One who had existed from eternity.
3. No other birth has ever involved such important consequences to the human race.
II. The CONTRAST between the real and the apparent importance of Christ's birth. The kingdom of God had entered into history without observation. Caesar's palace seemed to be more important to the world than the manger. The apparent is not always the real.
III. What is the PRACTICAL MEANING of this birth to us, and what relation have we to Him who, for the love of us, was born of the virgin?
(Canon Liddon.)I. The world expected an Emmanuel.
II. God was preparing the world for the coming of Emmanuel.
III. The world could not produce the Emmanuel.
IV. As the Emmanuel was the goal of ancient, so He is the starting-point of modern history.
(J. C. Jones)
(J. C. Jones.)1. Humanity needed a Saviour.
2. The Mediator was to come in the purity and the power of sinless human character.
3. We, as a part of the human world, must join in this longing of human hearts for a Christ.
4. When this yearning of mankind was taken up into the guidance and inspiration of God it became prophecy.
5. These things are a declaration of the one fact which lies, central and life-giving, at the heart of all our Christian thoughts and hopes.
6. We come short of the full grandeur of the gospel when we take the clause, "God with us," as signifying only one among us — a Deity moving among individuals, outside of them all, and, however friendly and gracious, still an external Person, saving them only by a work wrought all above them.
7. Then, too, it will begin to appear what Christ's own people may be, acknowledging their membership, confirmed and alive in His body.
(Bishop Huntingdon,.)Let Him be one of us, that we may be one in Him.
(J. C. Jones.)I. We know, in consequence of the revelations made by Christ, that God is so with us, so near to us, that OUR VERY EXISTENCE IS EVERY MOMENT UPHELD BY HIM. We exist not by chance, etc.; but whatever subordinate causes may be employed, they all derive their efficacy from Him.
II. We know, too, from the incarnation and doctrine of Christ, that God is with us, not as individuals merely, BUT WITH OUR WORLD, and that also in the way of special grace. He is in the world, not to exhibit His power merely, but that the world of men may be redeemed, etc.
III. In Christ we see that God was with us, IN OUR VERY NATURE, to accomplish our redemption.
IV. Though ascended into heaven, HE is STILL "GOD WITH US," by the invisible but mighty influence which He exerts.
V. God is with us, in condescension and special grace, DURING THE WHOLE COURSE OF DISCIPLINE to which He subjects us. Is Christ our Emmanuel?
(R. Watson.)A Moravian missionary once went to the West Indies, to preach to the slaves. He found it impossible for him to carry out his design so long as he bore to them the relation of a mere missionary. They were driven into the field very early in the morning, and returned late at night with scarcely strength to roll themselves into their cabins, and in no condition to be profited by instruction. They were savage toward all of the race and rank of their masters. He determined to reach the slaves by becoming himself a slave. He was sold, that he might have the privilege of working by their side, and preaching to them as he worked with them. Do you suppose the master or the pastor could have touched the hearts of those miserable slaves as did that man who placed himself in their condition, and went among them, and lived as they lived, suffered as they suffered, toiled as they toiled, that he might carry the gospel to them? This missionary was but following the example of the Lord Jesus Christ, who took on Him the nature of men, came among them, and lived as they lived, that He might save them from their sins.
(Beecher.)In what sense is Christ GoD WITH US? In His incarnation united to our nature — God with man — God in man. He is God with us to comfort, enlighten, protect, and defend us in time of temptation and trial, and in the hour of death, and God with us, and in us, and we with and in Him to all eternity.
(A. Clarke. LL. D.)Behold at once the deepest mystery and the richest mercy. By the light of nature we see the eternal as a God above us: by the light of the law we see Him as a God against us; but, by the light of the gospel, we see Him as a God with us, reconciled to us, at peace with us, interested for us, interceding in our behalf. Thanks be to God for His unspeakable gift!
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