Sermon: God With Us by the Rev. Lee Woofenden

Bridgewater, Massachusetts, September 10, 2006

Isaiah 7:10-17 The sign of Immanuel

"Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz, "Ask the Lord your God for a sign, whether in the deepest depths or in the highest heights." But Ahaz said, "I will not ask; I will not put the Lord to the test." Then Isaiah said: "Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary mortals, that you weary my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman will conceive and bear a son, and will name him Immanuel. He shall eat curds and honey by the time he knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good. For before the child knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land before whose two kings you are in dread will be deserted. The Lord will bring on you and on your people and on the house of your father a time unlike any since Ephraim broke away from Judah--he will bring the king of Assyria."

Matthew 1:18-23 The birth of Jesus the Messiah

Now the birth of Jesus the messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins." All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: "Look, the virgin will conceive and bear a son, and they will name him Immanuel," which means, "God with us."

True Christianity #2 The faith of the new church

The faith of the new heaven and the new church in universal form is this: The Lord from eternity, who is Jehovah, came into the world to gain control over the hells and to glorify his own human nature. If he had not done this, not one mortal could have been saved; those who believe in him are saved.

Note: This sermon begins a series that will be published as a book on the teachings of the New Church about the Lord God Jesus Christ. The first one, below, will serve as the Introduction to the book.

All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: "Look, the virgin will conceive and bear a son, and they will name him Immanuel," which means, "God with us." (Matthew 1:22-23)

Central to the universe, and central to our own souls--whether we recognize it or not--is the Divine Being whom we call God.

Who is God? There are as many different views of this as there are different faiths in our world. There are as many varieties in those views as there are sects and movements within those many faiths. And there are as many particular versions as there are individuals walking the face of the earth.

Our view of who God is and what God is like form an invisible but real force determining who we ourselves are, and what our lives will be. Our view of God is our view of what reality is all about, and what it means for us personally. Whoever or whatever we believe is the supreme reality, force, and meaning of the universe--that is our God.

This takes as many forms as there are people. For some, nature and science are the supreme reality, and their lives are devoted to understanding and living in that reality. For some, the highest value is human society, and their lives are devoted to understanding and serving society. Some think of money and possessions as the greatest value, and their lives are devoted to acquiring as much material wealth and pleasure as possible. Others see personal power as the highest value, and their lives are devoted to thrusting themselves into the most powerful positions they are able to attain. Each has a god that he or she believes in and worships as the highest good.

But when we use the word "God" with a capital "G," we are speaking of a Being who is above all the gods of the earth that vie for our attention and loyalty. We are speaking of a Being who is above all of them because this Being is the source of them all.

Not all people believe that such a Supreme Being exists. And of those who do, not all believe that this Being is conscious, loving, wise, and powerful. In other words, not all believe that God is personal and human.

Yet many millions do believe in a God who is both personal and present--a God who not only created us, but is there for us every moment of every day.

This is the God I believe in. I believe in a God who is not only infinitely above us, transcending all our highest ideals and feelings, with power vastly beyond anything we can imagine, but who is also personally present with us every day, every hour, every minute, every second, feeling our feelings with us, sharing our thoughts and goals and ideals with us, and giving us the ability to move forward not only in our times of happiness and joy, but also in our times of pain, sorrow, and despair.

In these pages I will offer you a picture of God that is the highest and best I have been able to conceive of. And I do believe that if there is a God, that God must be the best God there could possibly be. This universe is too incredibly beautiful and intricate, and we humans ourselves are too astounding and amazing, to have come from anything but the best of all possible Gods! Whatever is the best Divine Being we humans can imagine, God must be at least that good. And I believe God is far, far better than even the most enlightened and the most loving people among us can conceive.

Of course, none of what I will present to you is original to me. Everything I know of God is indelibly imprinted on me first and foremost from the words of Sacred Scripture, which have surrounded me from birth. I have also been indelibly imprinted with a beautiful, loving, and wise concept of God from my upbringing in the New Christianity, which draws inspiration from the writings of Emanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772), scientist, statesman, and seer. Those writings focus on and draw from the Scriptures themselves--and that is what I will also be focusing on and drawing from as we move forward. Everything we need to know about God is present in the pages of GodHoly Word.

The Bible is all about who God is and what God does in relationship with the universe, with the earth, and especially with the humans living on the earth.

We will look into the words of the Torah, the Law of the Old Testament or Hebrew Scriptures, to gain an understanding of who the infinite, transcendent, Creator God is, from whom all else comes.

We will look into the words of the Hebrew Prophets to gain an understanding of how God thinks, feels, and acts toward all the created human beings that ever have lived and ever will live on this earth.

We will look to the Gospels in the New Testament, or Greek Scriptures, to gain not only an understanding, but, I hope, a sense of joy in having a God who does not stay aloof from us in heaven, but comes to us personally to share with us our struggles and our triumphs, our griefs and our joys.

And we will look to the Book of Revelation, that final prophetic book of the Bible, to gain an understanding of God as one who continues to be with us personally while also being the infinitely loving, wise, and powerful Being who is the Creator and Ruler of all the galaxies, and of our own souls.

I hope you will join me for this wonderful journey through that wonderful, sacred volume. In it, we can learn of the still more wonderful Divine Being who created us, who loves us, who understands us more fully and deeply than we can possibly imagine, and who desires to give each one of us all the joy and happiness that we can possibly receive, not only here on earth, but to all eternity in the heaven of angels.

Artwork: Greg Olson - I Feel My Savior's Love
Used with Permission

Music: In the Garden
2003 Bruce De Boer
Used with Permission

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