God, Are You There?
For as long as man has walked this earth, we have asked this question: “God, are You there?” The question has many forms and is still asked today. “Is there a God?” “God, are You real?” Even if we presume that God exists, we may ask, “God, do You care?” “Does God matter?” “Does God make a difference in how I live?” “Does God hear my prayers?”
We are here tonight for the candle lighting ceremony to celebrate the birth of Jesus, the Son of God, born to a human and come as a human baby. When the Messenger Angel came to Joseph in a dream to explain how Mary could already be expecting a baby, the angel said about this baby:
“The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means ‘God with us.’” Matthew 1:23
This verse is a remarkable verse for 3 reasons. First we are confronted with the assertion that a virgin could conceive and give birth. It’s never happened before. This is a one time very special case. Second we are told that God is indeed with us. This is God’s answer to our question, “God are you there?” Third, this is not the first time this verse appears in Scripture. This verse was originally recorded in Isaiah 7:14, 700 years BEFORE Jesus was born to Mary.
Isaiah is just one of many prophets throughout the Old Testament, who heard from God and testified to His existence. The entire Old Testament, some would argue, is about man wondering about God and God’s existence, with only a very few men being able to answer the question.
Abram heard from God and changed his name to Abraham and changed his residence.
Moses heard from God and received the 10 commandments, our rules for living. The first 4 of which deal with how we view God.
But there were only some who knew God, only some who heard from God, only a few who experienced God’s Holy Spirit in their lives. On and on the question was asked, “God, are you there?” Those who could affirm: YES God is real, YES God is here, YES God does care - they were very special people. They were called prophets. And they lived a dangerous life. If they ever got one thing wrong, they were stoned to death!
Within this understanding of how things were, we see Isaiah stepping forward (700 years before Jesus was born), Hey guys… God talked to me last night. Here’s what He said. A virgin will give birth to a child. This will let you know once and for all that YES, God is there. Because God will be HERE! His name will be Immanuel - God WITH US!
Notice it is not God with some very special people called prophets. Not saying that God will be with the ecclesiastical class call priests. Not just with the rich. Not just with the educated. Not just with the Jewish.
GOD WITH US! - All of us!
When the angel choir sang before the lowly, uneducated, bottom of the social class shepherds, One angel stepped forward and said:
“I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.” Luke 2:10
All the people. That means you. And that means me. In one grand, majestic, all-encompassing, surprising step, God answered our age-old question, “God, are you there?” His answer? YES! But let’s be specific, says the God of the Ages, the Creator of all that is. “I’m not THERE. I AM HERE!”
For the next thirty-three years, this Jesus, this Son of God, continued to answer the question, “God are you there?”
“Before Abraham was ever born, I Am!” John 8:58
“The Father and I are one.” John 10:30
“Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father!” John 14:9
Here is the all-Creative, all-Powerful, all-Knowing King of Heaven Himself, come to Earth as meek and humble baby, living among us in the flesh and not just saying there is a God, but saying I AM He! You’ve seen me, you’ve seen God Himself.
This forces us to face some pretty uncomfortable conclusions. Either this Jesus suffered from delusions of grandeur on a scale that would have Him committed as a lunatic OR He was who said He was. There simply is no room for an in-between answer of Jesus as a great moral teacher and leader. People through the ages had been asking the age-old question, “God are You there?” His answer wasn’t just, “yes.” His answer was “Yes, Here I Am!”
This baby in the manger story grows even stranger. You see, they killed this baby 33 years later, because He claimed to be God. Dead. Buried. Heart not beating. Deceased. Lifeless. Not just for a few minutes. For days! Done for. Finished. Story over!
Story NOT over! Three days later this God become baby become man become dead man, becomes resurrected man. Alive. Walking around. Talking. Eating. Teaching.
Tonight do you need to know: “God, are you there?” God answers with, “Let me show you how much I’m there!” Death can stop man. Death cannot stop God.
I know. I know. It’s not easy to believe. His own disciple, Thomas, said he wouldn’t believe it unless he put his fingers in the nail holes of His hand. Jesus appears and says, fine. You need to feel my hands - yes, holes in each one - to believe that God is here. Go ahead.
Then the resurrected Jesus said this - to you and me:
“Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” Jn 20:29
Tonight in this old church building, we will light our candles and be reminded that Jesus came as a baby and that He came as the light of the world. He also came to give us a choice - to believe or not to believe. That was the question he asked over and over again in his 3-year preaching / teaching / miracle making ministry. “Do you believe?”
Ultimately we must recognize that the question, “God are You there?” is merely a human one. It comes uniquely from man’s perspective. Down through the ages we have asked that question. The story of the Bible - from our perspective - is in one sense - God’s answering that question with “Yes, I am here.”
However, there is another perspective from which we can look at this. The viewpoint of God. For from the beginning of the creation of man and down through the ages, and into this very evening, God has His own question. It is this:
“Man, are you there?”
Ever since God searched for Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, God has been searching for, looking for, men and women, boys and girls, who will stand up to be counted as a man or woman or boy or girl of God. And who will answer: “Yes, I am here.” “Yes I believe!”
Jesus gave us the absolute truth of the matter. He even started with truly truly. This is literally the GOSPEL TRUTH:
“Truly, truly I say to you, he who believes has eternal life.” John 6:47
Perhaps tonight is the night NOT when you ask the question of God’s Presence, but rather you answer God with your own presence, with your own conviction, with your own faith, with your own belief.
How will you answer that eternal Christmas question tonight? “Man are you there?” I pray it is with, “Yes, I am here!” “Yes, I believe.”