The Future is Behind Us: Future Comfort
Isaiah 7:10–17 // Matthew 1:18–25
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Our sermon text for today is both the Old Testament reading and the Gospel reading for today, “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” Our text thus far.
Dear friends in Christ,
The Future is Behind Us. Three weeks ago, we dwelled on the past promises of God. Two weeks ago, we considered the enduring hope given to us. Last week, we remembered that God does not change. And today, we think about the Future Comfort that the Gospel gives.
Life is not always comfortable. I remember being a little kid on Christmas Eve and having to wear the pants that my mom told me to wear. They were too hot. They were itchy. They didn’t fit. I told her, I’m not comfortable. These pants aren’t comfortable. She said, in the sweetest, kindest way that my mom talks, she said, “Tough. Life’s not always fair.” Life is not always comfortable.
But it’s not just that. For many of us, life can be downright hard.
Nobody plans for the roof to leak or for the battery to go dead or for the lower control arm to go out. Nobody gets up and says, “Boy, I’d really like to twist my ankle on the ice today.” Today’s a really good day for everything to go wrong.” Nobody sets out thinking, I’m hoping to crash my car.” Life is not always
Life wasn’t comfortable for Ahaz. He’d inherited the throne from his father Uzziah, and he’d inherited a whole lot of problems too. Israel to the north and Syria to the northwest were ganging up on him, and verse two says that when he heard that they were coming for him, the heart of Ahaz and all the people shook as the trees of the forest shake before the wind. Life wasn’t comfortable, and more than that, it was downright hard. His back was to the wall.
He only had one option: he could ally himself with the power north of Syria – the Assyrians. They were the huge empire, the regional power. They were cruel and harsh and excellent warriors, and Ahaz thought, if he could ally himself with the Assyria, then Assyria would keep Israel and Syria occupied. He felt as though he only had one earthly option. What else could he do?
Life wasn’t comfortable for Joseph either. He finds out that the wife he obviously cares for is pregnant, and not by him. She must be far enough along that it’s beginning to show, and you know that there are no secrets in small towns like Nazareth. Things are going to be uncomfortable, but. Life wasn’t comfortable, and more than that, it was downright hard. His back was to the wall.
He only had one option: he could divorce her quietly. Whatever Mary says, she obviously didn’t want to be with him. He was a righteous man, and so he had only one earthly option. What else could he do?
Have you ever been there? With only on option left, and even that option isn’t a good one?
Then God does something. Do you see? It’s the same something in both instances. In fact, it’s the thread that draws these two texts together. God does something. He takes their one earthly option and he does what only God can do.
He says to Ahaz, “Ask of me a sign. Be it as high as the heavens or as deep as Sheol. Ask anything, and I will do it to prove this prophecy.” And Ahaz does not believe.
He comes to Joseph with an angel and tells him, “Don’t do the thing that you were thinking to do. Take Mary to be your wife because the son is conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary.” And Joseph believes.
And then, as a promise of this extraordinary thing that he has done, he says to Ahaz and to Joseph, “Here is the sign. When you see this, you will know that all I say is true: behold the virgin shall be with child and you shall call his name Immanu El. Immanu WITH US. El. GOD. In this child, God is present with us.”
So, you might be thinking, “That’s great for them, Pastor Muther, but do you know how many angels have come to me with visions? Do you know how many times God has told me to ask for a sign as high as heaven or as deep as Sheol? A big goose egg. Nada. Zippo. Zilch.”
That’s, for the most part, true. God doesn’t part the clouds to tell me whether I should toast a bagel or eat cereal in the morning. But notice what the sign for both of these things was: Notice that it is the same thing for both prophecies.
You see, because this sign was the guarantee that God was going to do what he said he would do. This will be a sign for you: Immanuel. God with us.
And THAT is something that we DO have.
Dear friends in Christ, every time that you confess your sins and ask forgiveness, that often does God dwell WITH YOU to break the chains of your sins. Every time that you would say, “I am not enough. I need to be fed with God’s strength because I’m too weak on my own. “I need to thirst for God’s Word, because nothing else satisfies,” that often God starts filling your hunger. Every time you begin to say that gathering in the fellowship of the church is your priority, that often and more is God WITH YOU, by your side, leading you forward, assuring you of a future comfort.
What is that comfort? It is the future comfort that the Christian has always known. It’s the comfort that God is with you, that in your baptism you are united WITH Christ in his death so that you might be united WITH Christ in his life.
Whatever the political situation might be these days, whatever side you’re on, know that the comfort that reigns over all that chaos is this: death is not the end, that death which was a wall has become a doorway, and because Jesus lives, so shall we live. Whatever your social life might be, know that your life is hidden with Christ on high, and all of your treasure, all of your worth is in heaven where moth and rust cannot destroy. Whatever your family life might be these days, know that Jesus Christ is your brother and God is your father, and they give you a crown and a home that thieves cannot break in and steal.
The future comfort we receive is that God is with us, Through all the trials, God is with us. When we don’t know what to do, God still feeds us. When we cannot find the strength God is with us. Through all the unknown God is with us.
There’s a story about a doctor who made house calls, and one of his patients, a terminal patient, asked him what was going to happen when he died and what heaven would be like, and the doctor said, “I don’t know.” “I don’t know? Aren’t you a man of faith? How can you say, I don’t know?” He replied, “Do you hear my dog?” Yeah “He’s on the other side of the door. He doesn’t know what’s here. He doesn’t know what’s here, but he doesn’t really care. All he wants to do is be with me.” To be with you. In the middle of the unknown. Whatever may be, he will be with us, and that is our future comfort.
And again and again, we find that God’s future for us looks far different than we thought it could look. As we walk one step at a time, we find that the future that is laid out by the cross of Jesus unfolds in God’s time, in God’s way. Time and time again, we see what Ahaz saw from Isaiah: somehow by God’s grace, he does something that we never expected, in a way that we couldn’t even guess. Again and again, we see life from Joseph’s perspective: we have a small part to play in the gloriously big plan of salvation, and whenever we need comfort, we look to Jesus Christ, the center of our faith.
Amen and Amen.
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