Worship Sunday at 10:30

Bethany Evangelical
Lutheran Church

Ishpeming, Michigan † Est. 1870

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Advent - 12/18/2016

For the past three Sundays we’ve ended worship singing “O come, O come, Emmanuel,” one of the best known Advent carols, various forms of which have been around for over a thousand years. Well, today, Emmanuel arrives both in the first reading from Isaiah and in the gospel reading from Matthew.

In Isaiah, the identity of Emmanuel isn’t clear which is the nature of prophetic announcements. In Matthew however, it is clear; Emmanuel is Jesus, God with us. With today’s readings then, we begin the transition from Advent to Christmas and as the main focus of today’s worship, in words and music the choir will also feature Emmanuel and will further assist in the transition to Christmas.

Before that though, a few thoughts about these readings. You may have noticed that the young woman with child mentioned in Isaiah becomes a virgin in Matthew, “A virgin (rather than a young woman) will conceive and bear a son.” It’s a translation issue, the details and theological implications of which I won’t get into right now, but of course Jesus born of the Virgin Mary becomes part of our confession of faith.

For some though it becomes a stumbling block to faith because such things just don’t happen. That kind of skepticism is understandable; it was an issue for Mary and Joseph too. “How can this be?” Mary asks in Luke’s account of these events and in Matthew, Joseph is ready to preserve his honor by dismissing Mary quietly, as the text says, until, in a dream, an angel tells him the same thing the angel told Mary, not to be afraid, that this birth is the work of the Holy Spirit.

As was the case with Mary and Joseph, we too trust in the words of the angel. We believe that with the Holy Spirit at work, new things are possible, new things happen, things that go beyond what reason tells us is possible. From creation onward, God’s spirit has been at work bringing new life and hope to a world that desperately needs it. When we and the world are exhausted, when discouragement borders on despair, when we can’t imagine the possibility of anything new, the Holy Spirit stirs and the unimaginable happens. That’s what the angels announced to Mary and to Joseph concerning this baby who would be named Jesus, for he will save his people.

He would be named Jesus but he is also connected to that prophecy from Isaiah that speaks of Emmanuel or God is with us. We hear Emmanuel and our first thought might be that it’s the name of a church, Emmanuel, Negaunee, I did my internship at Immanuel in Chicago. But calling Jesus Emmanuel does more than provide a name for churches. It is about the Incarnation, and God becoming human in this baby. It’s about God’s decision to be in the world in a new and different way, fully and physically present in order to bring God’s divine nature to humanity.

Emmanuel, God with us, tells us that touched by God’s divine nature we’re more than who we thought we were; our very being is changed, our fallen human nature being remade in the divine image of God. Emmanuel also tells us that we are not alone, that whatever happens, whatever we face, God is with us. For some of us, at least some of the time, it’s through music that we experience the reality of God’s presence with us. The words that we sing or that we hear sung become more than words having, as they do, the ability to move us in mysterious, divine ways, to move us in heavenly ways.

Quoting Martin Luther in this Reformation 500 year, he said, “Next to the Word of God, music deserves the highest praise. She is a mistress and governess of human emotions. For whether you wish to comfort the sad, to terrify the happy, to encourage the despairing, what more effective means than music could you find?”

Bethany’s choir now brings to you this year’s Advent cantata, From Heaven Above.

Rev. Warren Geier


Bethany Lutheran Church
715 Mather Avenue
Ishpeming, MI 49849

Phone: 906-486-4351
Fax: 906-486-9640

Rev. Warren Geier, Pastor

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one such child in my name
welcomes me, and whoever
welcomes me welcomes
not me
but the
one who
sent me.”


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