Israel's history is a saga of triumph and distress, of conquest and defeat. As the great Davidic nation dissipated into shadows of its former self, the chronic national despair known as the Exile threatened to turn into fable God's great Kingdom promise.

As the Assyrians swept into Palestine in the 8th century BC, the great prophet Isaiah told a frightened King Ahaz to stand firm and refrain from making alliances with the invaders.  God, he said, would take care of his people. 

And so, in that magnificent prophecy of Isaiah 7, the sage proclaimed that God would come to his people.  That's Immanuel - "God With Us".
"Oh come, oh come Immanuel.
And ransom captive Israel
that mourns in lonely exile here
until the Son of God appear."
God had told David in 2 Samuel 7 that he would adopt David's son as his very own, and that his reign would last forever.  In this way, the continuing struggle of the Exile gave birth to a growing hope in this Messianic King, the son of David that would be the adopted "son of God". 
"Rejoice! Rejoice!
Immanuel shall come to you, O Israel!"
Of course, as Isaiah and the other prophets often said, Israel too would be judged.  For God, after all, cannot tolerate sin.  That's just how it is when God arrives in our midst.  That's Immanuel - "God With Us".

Father, tonight we celebrate Immanuel.  We welcome every facet of your arrival as we humbly recognize that we can't pick and choose with you.

We hope in the assurance of a Kingdom both now and yet to come.  We accept your crystalline judgment that penetrates our deepest secrets and those of the whole world.  We breathe the free air of past sins forgiven.  We chase after the cleansing fire of your Spirit that actually transforms us into new creatures. 

We welcome you, Immanuel.

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