The Amazing Emmanuel! "How Can He Help Us?"

We've sung our songs, heard from our young, given our gifts, received God's Word. Now we're waiting. What will happen next? Will it matter? Will it make a difference? I mean, hurry up, get to it. Christmas is coming! There's shopping to be done. Maybe cards to write. "There's an auction on E-bay where I got a bid." Oh, and the Ravens are on, at 1 PM. So, Reverend, if you're here to tell me that Jesus is comin', that Amazin' Emmanuel you lifted up last week, I'm hear to ask you, "How can he help us?" The music's mastered the matter at hand, "How can he save us, how can he help us, born here among us in Bethlehem?"

On the one hand, you and I seem self-sufficient, and our age with us. On the other, we live in an NWO world (short for no way out). To many, 2 out of 3 in our community, it doesn't feel like we need Jesus. 'Got the house, 'got the car, 'got the 2.1 kids; got the closets and the stuff to fill them (more, in fact), 'got the job, and even Social Security and life insurance. How can he save us, how can he help us, Jesus our Lord? But then too, we got a war, and terrorists galore; we got global warming and maybe bird flu swarming. We got kids that don't listen (and when they do, they often hear us say stuff we wish they hadn't heard). Porn's about the single most pervasive product on the net, and problems in our families filet the backbone from our souls! Church (from TV to right-here-with-you-and-me) is often nice, good… but not cutting edge enough to excise our sin, invite Christ in, or move us closer to heaven than where we are or where we've been. How can he save us, how can he help us, born here among us in Bethlehem?

He can help us with our Christmas list. He can help us with our spelling. And help us put things in order. Ask our kids for their Christmas list, and they'll produce, ASAP. At our house, ask Beverly and you'll get a computer print out. Ask me, you'll get a shrug or a furrowed brow, "I'll think about it." (Not that I'm that selfless. Likely, just clueless. But I'm told it's a guy thing. Right?) Well, Jesus can help, reaching back for an old obligation, and stretching forward for a new vision. Isaiah said it first, "Comfort my people, says God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem. Cry to her, her warfare is ended, her iniquity pardoned, her sins, laid to rest. A voice cries: "In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. 'Every valley lifted, every mountain and hill made low; the uneven ground, level, the rough places a plain; the Lord's glory shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together! God says so." John the Baptist said it so simply, "Repent and believe, the King and the Kingdom are comin'!" You might have noticed. For most of us, this is not our first Christmas. We've been at it for years. Well, God's been at it longer. With a plan. From the start. From the prophets to the Baptist to the Baby in the Manger, we've been given glimpses of it, seemingly forever! Yet it presents us with something utterly new. We get a face-to- face encounter with the Holy in someone who looks wholly and utterly like us, only without sin. Without malice or injustice. Somebody who shows us absolute-heaven-on-earth. And THAT is the sum and substance of the Christmas list of everyone who really wants to greet Jesus, come Christmas. There at the top of our list: to be like Jesus! In fact, that's the entire of our list! How about that?! Oh, let him help you with the spelling too. Every letter tells us what we can admit, and what we must leave out, of our lives and of our souls. (Extempore illustration of below)
J. Justice (shared fairness in the joy of living by faith).Spell your life with it.
E. Evangel hope. Good news. We can't be bad news people, for Jesus' sake!
S. Self-centered's selected out. Sin's gotta go. It's at the center of his name!
U. Utter commitment. To God, the Kingdom. All else is dis-traction. It's
gettin' a grip on lesser stuff or the wrong stuff.
S. Saving grace. A sure knowing: our doing won't get us to heaven, only
God's doing by his Son. All arrogance and pride, status and stuff… won't do!
Justice: in; Evangel hope: in; Sin: out; Utter commitment: in; Saving grace: always.
There's a Christmas list you can spell with ease and seek to fill, year after year, without standin' in a store line or E-ordering anything!

So, this Savior to-be-born can help us with our shopping. He can teach us all about choosing. He even has a gift wrap service at the ready for us. Look at what Jesus chooses. To leave heaven, to live as a servant, to die for cancelling our sin. God in Christ loves us so much he chooses to leave heaven and live on the earth. He values souls. 'Values life. He values today without waiting for tomorrow. He selects living with us, even before dieing for us. He declares us fit company for him! To shop is to choose. 'To select from all the possibilities what pleases most and fits best. This is what Jesus shops for: The Kingdom on earth. Every soul by sin oppressed (to quote the old hymn.) Today's journey, before tomorrow's destination. Jesus invites us to shop for the same things. Let me illustrate. Roger Schutz was an un-famous guy with a grandma who believed and chose like Jesus. So during WWI she opened her French home to the wounded, the refugees and the hiding on both sides. He did the same during WWII. It led him to give up everything to do one thing. Choose Jesus. He founded the Taize Brothers who devote themselves to prayerful peace for God's children on earth. A young Harvard student shocked her teacher at the thought we oughta recruit the best college grads to teach in the worst city schools, a function of valuing every soul. Today, 1000's of young lives are changed by bright volunteer teachers nationwide. In this room are folks who have ministered to the homeless, hopeless, imprisoned, feeble and frail. What could you select from what Jesus shops? Hmm. And should you seek to wrap your gifts, Jesus provides the wrapping. He puts it this way, "A new command I give you. Love one another as I love you."

Help us? Why, this Jesus-to-be-born can save us from getting lost and assure us we'll be home for Christmas, for real, not just in our dreams! Sometimes in this life the going is hard. It always has been. There are hills too much to climb. We haven't the strength. Can you think of some hill or mountain you've had to climb since Christmas last? And there are voracious valleys that seem to eat at our innards and our souls on the steep down hill? What's been your valley or valleys this year? Oh, and then there are those twists and turns. Where's your life veered off in some unexpected, and maybe untoward direction since last Christmas? Whatja been into you shoulda avoided, been 'round and 'round about you'd rather not have been near at all? Has there been a time you were lookin' and lookin', wonderin', "Where is Jesus? Where is my God?" John the Baptist, like Isaiah before him and Jesus after, has a word for us. "Get to buildin'. Make straight in the wilderness, wherever yours is, a highway for our God. The vision here is Israel coming up into the Promised Land from Egypt, in need of the way. It's the eastern N/S route that makes it possible to connect Israel with others. And it's the highway of the King-who-comes-in-victory to claim the people who will be his for rule and reign. Friends, if you wanna be home for Christmas in your soul, you got a couple more weeks to do some road work. Bake the cookies. Fine. But read the sacred Word, pray your prayers for Christ to be born in your heart, sing the spiritual songs, not just the sappy ones we hear, all to be sure you can walk by the straightest way, from slavery to freedom, just like Israel. 'Anything holdin' you back, compelling you do be less than you are, scrape and grade it down to size, or fill it in if it sends you down hill. Straighten it out. whatever you need to do. If you're disconnected from somebody you love or live with, have a chat, write a note, send a card, do a deed, make a good turn not a bad one t'ward them. But get it together. And by all means, any means, prepare the way of the Lord to come and reign in you, rule over you, come to you, so you can straight away make your home with him. If you don't think you know the way, consider. This little baby insists he's the Way! Follow him… from Christmas day to Easter day. It'll be OK!

God with us. Emmanuel. Jesus, born in a stable, in Bethlehem. He can help us. He can save us. With a list fit for desiring: desiring him. With choices fit for choosing, choosing him. With a highway fit for following: following home to him!

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