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“Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” Isaiah 7:14

This ancient prophesy, given as a sign to King Ahaz of the coming judgments upon his enemies, Syria and the northern kingdom of Israel, points some 700-plus years beyond the immediate threats against the kingdom of Judah to the birth of Messiah Jesus.

This sign which the LORD gave was far greater than any normal human event, for a virgin would conceive and bear a son – something not humanly possible, but “with God nothing shall be impossible” (Luke 1:37).

And this virgin-born Child would be called Immanuel, which means God with us. The promised Child would be God Himself in human flesh, the God-man Savior promised since the beginning of time when God said to the serpent of old, “I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel” (Genesis 3:15).

This Child is the promised Seed of Abraham (Genesis 12:3; 22:18), the Shiloh promised by the mouth of Jacob (Genesis 48:10).

God Himself tells us of the fulfillment of these ancient promises through the words of the angel of the Lord who appeared to Joseph (Matthew 1:20-23): “But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins. Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.”

The ancient words were fulfilled in the conception and birth of the Messiah, Jesus. As the Lord had promised, the Holy Ghost caused the virgin Mary to conceive in her womb and give birth to the very Son of the Highest, the Son of God (cf. Luke 1:26-38).

And this Child, Messiah Jesus, came into this world to save His people from their sins. This He did by keeping God’s commandments in mankind’s place and suffering and dying upon the cross to pay in full the just penalty for the sins of the whole world.

The Bible says (Galatians 4:4-5): “But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.”

As we once again prepare to celebrate the Christmas season, remember that we celebrate no ordinary event. We celebrate the greatest event in human history, an event promised since the beginning of the world and fulfilled in the birth of the Christ Child – God Himself, Emmanuel in human flesh, come into this world to redeem us and open for us the gates of everlasting life in heaven!

O LORD God, eternal Father, thank You for Your ancient words of promise which give hope to thousands looking to You for life and salvation. Thank You for fulfilling those ancient words and sending Your only-begotten Son into this world a true man, born of the virgin, that He might redeem us by shedding His blood for us upon the cross and then rising again. Grant us faith to believe Your ancient words and place our hope and trust in Messiah Jesus, our Savior and Redeemer. In His name we pray. Amen.

[By Randy Moll. Scripture is taken from the King James Version of the Bible.]

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“For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given: and the government shall be upon His shoulder: and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.” Isaiah 9:6-7

Who is the Child born in Bethlehem two millennia ago? Though there be those who still believe and teach that Christ Jesus is somehow less than Jehovah God Himself, this ancient prophecy of Isaiah, spoken some 700 years before Messiah’s birth leaves no doubt about the truth.

This Child, descended of David and who would assume David’s throne at the head of God’s people, is none other than Jehovah God Himself come into this world as a babe born in Bethlehem. Why do we say this? Because the inspired Scriptures tell us that this Child, promised of old, would be called: “Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.”

Jesus is not only the son of Mary, He is the Son of the Most High (cf. Luke 1:32). He is of miraculous and wonderful birth, conceived by the Holy Ghost and born of the virgin Mary; and He indeed is the wonderful fulfillment of God’s plan to send a Savior.

He is our Counselor and Advocate, rightly making known the truth about our sinfulness and the salvation God provided in Him, and coming to our aid by paying in full for our sins and winning for us life and salvation.

He is the mighty God, though born a babe – a human child – and humbling Himself to fulfill all righteousness for us and to pay the price for our sins by His innocent sufferings and death upon the cross, He is God Himself.

He is the everlasting Father – not less than the Father or in some way inferior to Him, but one and the same with the eternal Father who created all things and by whom all things continue to exist.

And He is the Prince of Peace, the promised Shiloh of Genesis 49 who died on the cross to atone for mankind’s sins and establish peace between God and man (cf. Ephesians 2:13ff.).

Indeed, the divine truth expressed here – that Jesus is Jehovah God come into this world as the Babe born in Bethlehem to go to the cross for us and redeem us – is all important; for, if Jesus were just a man, His sufferings and death would not have been sufficient payment for the sins of all mankind (cf. Psalm 49:7-8). But Jesus is true God and true man, making it possible for Him to take our place under the law of God and to die in our stead, and making His obedience and sacrifice sufficient to redeem the whole world!

The government rests upon His shoulders and “of the increase of His government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever.”

The risen Lord Jesus, even now, reigns over His Church – made up of all who look to Him and His sacrifice in faith for their salvation. And Jesus’ kingdom continues to grow as more and more learn of Him and what He has done to open up the gates of heaven to sinners, for the Holy Spirit works through God’s Word to convince men of their sins and to comfort them with the good news of forgiveness and life everlasting through faith in Christ Jesus.

And, as the Scriptures promise, Jesus shall come again to judge this world and condemn all who refuse to repent but continue in rebellion against Him. And He shall establish His kingdom and rule over His people “with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever.”

Who is this Child born in Bethlehem and laid in a manger? He is none other than Jehovah God, the King of glory, come in human flesh to be our Savior!

Dear Lord Jesus, Son of God and son of man, graciously bring me into Your everlasting kingdom through faith in Your blood which was shed for me upon the cross, and keep me among Your chosen people unto life everlasting in Your eternal kingdom. Amen.

[Scripture is taken from the King James Version of the Bible.]

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“As it is written in the prophets, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee. The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.” Mark 1:2-3 (Read v. 1-8)

John the Baptist was not a Baptist, but he was sent to prepare the way of the Lord by calling upon all to repent of their sins and evil ways and to be baptized in the name of the one who was to come and who would make atonement for the sins of the world by bearing upon the cross the full punishment for the sins of all.

As the Bible tells us in v. 4, “John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.” And John pointed his hearers to the one who was coming after him but who was mightier and greater than John. He pointed people to Christ Jesus, “the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).

John was just a messenger to point people to Jesus, the Son of God and Savior of the world. John baptized with water; Jesus baptized with the Holy Spirit.

As we expectantly await Jesus’ return, we would do well to heed John’s message and repent of our sinful ways, looking to Christ Jesus and His atoning sacrifice on the cross for the forgiveness of all our sins. Only through repentance and faith in Christ Jesus can we be ready and stand in His judgment! (Cf. Acts 3:19; 4:12).

And we continue the preparatory work of John the Baptist yet today, calling upon all to repent of their evil ways and to place their faith in Christ Jesus, who died for our sins and rose again and is coming in judgment to establish His everlasting kingdom. We call upon all to repent and be baptized in Jesus’ name (Acts 2:38-40; Luke 24:46-47; Mark 16:15-16). We baptize with water according to Jesus’ command (Matthew 28:19); Jesus baptizes with the Holy Spirit (John 3:3-6; Titus 3:3-7).

Have mercy on us, O God, and wash away our sins in the shed blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ that we might be ready for His return; and grant that we too would be a voice crying out in the wilderness calling others to repent and look to Jesus for eternal salvation. In His name, we pray. Amen.

Scripture is taken from the King James Version of the Bible

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“Let Israel hope in the LORD: for with the LORD there is mercy, and with him is plenteous redemption. And he shall redeem Israel from all his iniquities.” Psalm 130:7-8

We await the Lord’s coming – His return in judgment – but if the LORD God were to keep track of all our sins and hold them against us – who could stand in God’s presence (Psalm 130:3; cf. Ecclesiastes 7:20; Romans 3:23)? Of course, the obvious answer to this question is no one! As sinners who fail to love the LORD God or keep His commandments, we all deserve only the eternal wrath and punishment of God!

But the Psalm continues (v.4): “But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared.”

God graciously forgives sins and pardons sinners for Jesus’ sake. What a wonderful truth this is! It is for this reason that we are directed to place our hope in the LORD.

The Psalm says: “Let Israel hope in the LORD: for with the LORD there is mercy, and with him is plenteous redemption. And he shall redeem Israel from all his iniquities” (Psalm 130:7-8).

The people of Israel were directed to place their hope in the LORD for forgiveness and eternal salvation. They were not told to trust in themselves, or to try to appease God’s wrath by living a good life under the Law! Rather, they were directed to trust in the LORD God to have mercy on them and to forgive their sins! They were assured that with him is plenteous redemption. They were comforted by the truth that God is merciful, and that in Him is full and complete redemption from sin and its eternal consequences (cf. Psalm 86:5). They were comforted by the promise that “he shall redeem Israel from all his iniquities.”

This is none other than the promise of the Messiah and Savior who would come and die in their stead to redeem them. It is for the sake of this coming Savior that God called His people to repent of their sins and hope in Him and His mercy (cf. Isaiah 55:7).

It is for the sake of the promised Christ and the redemption He would accomplish that God assures all who trust in Him of complete forgiveness and life everlasting (cf. Psalm 103:8-12; Psalm 23:6; Psalm 16:11).

This ancient promise was fulfilled in our Lord Jesus Christ. As the angel said, He was named JESUS because He would “save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). Jesus has come and has died upon the cross for the sins of all. Our Lord Jesus Christ rose again from the dead on the third day in triumph, assuring us that in Him we have “plenteous redemption” (cf. Rom. 4:24ff.).

Our God calls upon us also to place our hope in Him. We cannot appease God’s wrath against our sins by our own lives or works; but “we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: and he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:1,2). In Him “we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace” (Ephesians 1:7). Let us also place our faith, our hope, in Jesus Christ who has redeemed us from all our iniquities!

Dear LORD God, we thank Thee for redeeming us from our sins and iniquities through the innocent sufferings and death of Jesus Christ in our stead. Grant that we place our hope and faith in Thee alone for eternal salvation. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.

Musical Setting of the Psalm

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“You meet him who rejoices and does righteousness, who remembers You in Your ways. You are indeed angry, for we have sinned — in these ways we continue; and we need to be saved. But we are all like an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags; we all fade as a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away. And there is no one who calls on Your name, who stirs himself up to take hold of You; for You have hidden Your face from us, and have consumed us because of our iniquities.” Isaiah 64:5-7 (Read v. 1-9)

Isaiah was a prophet of God who spoke God’s Word to the visible church of his day in Judah and Jerusalem. His words are still fitting words for the visible church in our day and, through them, God warns us concerning our sinful and erring ways and offers us mercy and comfort in Jesus, God’s Son and the long-promised Messiah and Savior!

As the Scriptures teach, God is a God who shows mercy to those who repent of their evil ways and trust in Him for pardon and forgiveness. He acts on behalf of those who, as a fruit of their faith, rejoice in God and His salvation and seek to walk in His ways. Cf. Psalm 103:6-18.

But, as Isaiah testifies to the visible church of his day, we have sinned and continue to sin. We wander like lost sheep and err in our ways (Isaiah 64:4 – LXX; Isaiah 53:6; 1 Peter 2:25) and we need our God to find us and save us. I think of the words in our Setting Four liturgy which say: “We have sinned in thought, word, and deed, and … we cannot free ourselves from our sinful condition.”

We are unclean and cannot stand in the presence of the Lord God. Our “righteous works” are like an unclean (menstrual) rag in God’s eyes. Because of our sins, we fade like a leaf in the fall and our sins, like the wind, blow us away. Cf. Psalm 103:14-16.

And, because of our sinfulness and our sinful inclination, we do not turn to the Lord, call upon Him or take hold of Him and His mercy. We need the Lord to intervene and save us! We need the God who formed us and gave us life to grant us His Holy Spirit and regenerate us, moving us to repent of our sins and take hold of God and His mercy toward us in Christ Jesus, who took our sins upon Himself and suffered our just punishment that we might be saved (cf. v. 8-9; Isaiah 53:6; Jeremiah 31:18).

And what does God promise when we turn to the Lord God in humble repentance? “‘Come now, and let us reason together,’ Says the Lord, ‘Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool’” (Isaiah 1:18). Indeed, God does save us – through the innocent sufferings, death and resurrection of Christ Jesus, our Lord. He sent His Son to die for us and redeem us, and He sent His Spirit to call us to faith in Jesus, our Savior!

“For You are the Father’s Son who in flesh the vict’ry won. By Your mighty pow’r make whole all our ills of flesh and soul.” (Lutheran Service Book, Page 332, Verse 6)

[Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.]

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