Through the Bible and through traditions and times, God has been called many names: Yahve or Jehovah, Elohim, Adonai and King of Kings, The way, Alpha and Omega, Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ, The Good Shepherd, Lord, Messiah, Lamb of God, Rock of Ages, Bread of life.
One of the names of God that I love the most is Emmanuel. Our church even proudly and humbly holds this name to: Emmanuel Danish Evangelical Lutheran Church.
And we have been singing all 4 Sundays of Advent: Rejoice, rejoice, take heart, and do not fear. God’s Chosen one, Immanuel draws near.”
Emmanuel = God with us. That name says it all. It sums up our faith and our hope: that God is near and he stays near. That God is our God and is always with us.
What strikes me with this name is that it is the best promise of presence and nearness. It is a name full of hope and faith.
God is with us!
As St. Paul wrote to the congregation in Rome:
If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? ……:
37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
If God is with us:
who or what can be against us ?
We do know what can be against us:
Bad luck, wrong circumstances, great hardship and devastating difficulties, and chronic pain.
Troubling test results and the notion” there is nothing more we can do.”
Persecutions and accusations. Mocking and lying.
Accidents and illness. Broken hearts and broken spirits. Broken homes and broken wallets.
There are plenty of things that can be against us, but does that mean that God is not with us?
When we confess our faith in church, reciting the old Apostle creed, we begin with a direct confrontation: we renounce the devil and all his works and all his ways!
We begin with choosing sides and renouncing, saying no to everything that can be against us, work against us, conspire against us, and led us in temptation: We renounce the devil and all his work and all his ways.
We renounce and say no to everything evil, everything that contradicts the purpose of our living and our faith. We renounce everything that wants to tell us that God is not with us – that we are in fact on our own. And only the strongest will survive!
To this we strongly oppose and say NO, Sunday after Sunday. Because we do believe that God is with us even when it hurts, - or more precisely especially when it hurts.
To believe in the notion that God is with us, to confess in our faith in a God who is near us, with us and for us, Immaneuel, - this is a creed and confession at the very center of Christianity.
Immanuel – God is with us! This could be our battle cry in our lives and how we are going to handle life and its prosperity and adversity, Are we are going to retreat out of fear, discouragement or lack of vision and faith, - or are we going to lift up our heads and spirits with faith, hope and love on our banner. Are we going to rejoice in our hearts and do not fear because God is with us?
The battle-cry for believers in the midst for a world filled with sufferings and struggles, despair and death, - the notion “that God is with us” is truly what we need to hear and believe in. These words should instill faith in us and give us a confidence that is rooted in the grace of God and thus makes us courageous, hopeful and unstoppable.
This battle cry, God is with us, is a profound confession of faith and it is filed with religious, theological, practical, and emotional truth. To say and to confess that God is with us and for us means that we are indeed not alone amidst the changes and challenges and circumstances of our lives as every day is marked by God’s love for us. This means that there is nothing in our past, in our presence or in our future that is outside the reign of God and his loving intentions for us. And it means that it is God’s Grace that strengthens us and saves us, not our own ability to be stronger, wiser, better or wiser than the rest.
We confess that in a newer creed that we use from time to time
We are not alone; we live in God's world.
We believe in God:
who has created and is creating, who has come in Jesus, the Word made flesh, to reconcile and make new, who works in us and others by the Spirit.
We trust in God.
We are called to be the Church: to celebrate God's presence, to live with respect in Creation, to love and serve others, to seek justice and resist evil, to proclaim Jesus, crucified and risen, our judge and our hope.
In life, in death, in life beyond death, God is with us.
We are not alone. Thanks, be to God. Amen.
This creed echo’s the faith and the hope of Mary and Joseph as we listen to today’s Gospel about the Birth of Jesus. Joseph had to have a strong faith in God’s presence and never-ending grace, to conquer and face life. And Mary – this courageous, gracious, and faithful woman truly embodied that God was with her, in her and at her side. And thus, we prepare to walk the last days of Advent and soon celebrate Christmas: the wonderful story about the promise of God coming to the world in a small child – and promising always to be with us.
Rejoice, rejoice, take heart, and do not fear. God’s Chosen one, Immanuel draws near.”