HEAVEN HEARS: Exile–Ups, Downs, and Inbetweens   Matthew 1:1-17

Please turn to Matthew 1:  The book of genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.  Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, and Perez the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Ram, and Ram the father of Amminadab, and Amminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon, {not a fish} and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David the king.  And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah, and Solomon the father of Rehoboam, and Rehoboam the father of Abijah, and Abijah the father of Asaph, and Asaph the father of Jehoshaphat, and Jehoshaphat the father of Joram, and Joram the father of Uzziah, and Uzziah the father of Jotham, and Jotham the father of Ahaz, and Ahaz the father of Hezekiah, and Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, and Manasseh the father of Amos, and Amos the father of Josiah, and Josiah the father of Jechoniah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon.  

And after the deportation to Babylon:  Jechoniah was the father of Shealtiel, and Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel, and Zerubbabel the father of Abiud, and abiud the father of Eliakim, and Eliakim the father of Azor, and Azor the father of Zadok, and Zadok the father of Achim, and Achim the father of Eliud, and Eliud the father of Eleazar, and Eleazar the father of Matthan, and Matthan the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of who Jesus was born, who is called Christ.  So all the generations from Abraham to David were fourteen generations, and from David to the deportation to Babylon fourteen generations, and from the deportation to Babylon to the Christ fourteen generations.

Forty-one names.  Roughly 2000 years.  The time period we can read in roughly a minute-and-a-half, encompasses 400 years of slavery, 40 years of wandering.  Dynasties that rise and fall.  Hopes that are fulfilled and hopes that are taken to the grave.  Forty-one people included in this genealogy; they’re not just names, they’re stories.  They’re real people.  They’re real people who lived real lives; some of them were really, really great lives, some of them were absolute disasters.  I was struck as I read through this genealogy, once again, that this isn’t just a list of names, this is an invitation into a story.  Matthew, by the way, traces the genealogy of Jesus through his father Joseph.  Luke, on the other hand, traces his genealogy through Mary. That’s why they look a little bit different.

I was telling a friend of mine that I was studying these genealogies in Matthew.  He told me he hopped on ancestry.com a few weeks ago and started to research his family tree.  He shared with me that the act of doing that was fairly addicting.  I looked at him and said, “A genealogy addicting?  You need better hobbies!”  After teasing him, I went home and hopped on ancestry.com, signed up for a 14-day trial and went into an ancestry coma!!  Has anybody done this before?  So you know; we’ll start a recovery group after I trace my lineage back to Adam and Eve!  It’s like a puzzle though.  You pull this thread in ancestry.com and you start to see the other names that you’re attached to and it’s a little bit boring and monotonous at first, and then you start making these connections.  You’re like, “Oh my goodness, these are my great-great-great-great-grandfathers or grandmothers.”  I could trace my lineage back around to the 1500’s and it only took like 15 hours to do it!  And I started to recognize that we love doing this because 1) it’s sort of a puzzle we have to put together, and 2) it’s a part of who we are.  It’s a part of our story.  I don’t know a lot about the people who are in my family tree, but I do know that they influenced me.  I know that when my great-great-great-great-grandparents came over from England, or from Sweden, or from Germany, I know that somehow their story of getting on that ship and coming over here somehow impacts my life today.

I was reminded the zeitgeist of our day is individualism and we stand on our own two feet.  Our story—when you ask somebody to tell you about themself, they will tell you about themself.  They’ll tell you what their resumé looks like.  They’ll tell you the accomplishments that they’ve made.  But if you were to ask somebody back in Jesus’ day, “Tell me about yourself.”  They would tell you about their family.  They’d unpack for you their family tree.  If you were to ask Jesus who he was, he might say something to the affect of “I’m the son of Abraham the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah…”   It’s interesting because even back in Jesus’ day, if genealogy was sort of a resumé, people were lying on their resumés even back in Jesus’ day.  Herod the Great, who was alive and ruling at the same time as Jesus, went to great extent to amend his public genealogy so that people wouldn’t know that there were some shady characters in his family tree.  Some people who did some things that weren’t all that upstanding, which is ironic if you know anything about Herod.  He was trying to protect his reputation which wasn’t exactly squeaky-clean; he killed a few people here and there.  But he went to great extent to say this is who I am and amended his genealogy.  

What’s interesting is that Matthew does the exact opposite when he tells us who Jesus is.  It can just seem like a list of names, but Matthew has a purpose.  In writing this, in unpacking who Jesus is.  Look at the very first verse of Matthew with me.  In this verse, you’ll see what Matthew’s purpose is in writing this genealogy of Jesus’ life.  He says:  The book of the genealogy….   You could translate that word (genealogy) better.  You can say “genesis.”  He’s echoing back to Genesis 1.  He’s saying listen, I know that the beginning of the world is important, but the birth of the Messiah is a new beginning that is equally and arguably even MORE important than the creation of the world.  The book of the genesis of Jesus Christ, the son of David and the son of Abraham.   Matthew wants to connect the story of Jesus’ birth to the two greatest promises that the people of Israel had.  The first promise was the promise given to Abraham.  It’s called the Abrahamic blessing.  It says this in Genesis 12:1-3 — Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you.  And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.  I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”    This was the hope of Israel.  That in some way, some form their little nation was going to be a blessing to every family across the globe.

The second story that Jesus is connected to is the story of David.  David was also given a promise.  His promise was a little bit different.  David was one of the kings of Israel; we’ll talk about him in just a moment.  This is the promise God gives to David (2 Sam. 7:12-13) — When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offsprings after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom.  He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.    Here’s the two promises that Jesus is connected to:  He’s connected to the promise that Israel would be a blessing to everyone.  And He’s connected to the promise that God, through his people, will reign forever.  For everyone and forever.  That’s what Matthew wants to do as he unpacks this list of forty-one names, forty-two generations, a few thousand years.  He wants you to know Jesus is for everyone and Jesus is forever.

Matthew is a little unique in the way he does his genealogy.  He does his genealogy in a way that many people in the ancient world would have created or would have presented a genealogy.  Matthew’s genealogy is done specifically so that you and I, or people in an oral culture, could remember what he was saying.  He divides it into parts.  Listen to the way he presents this in Matthew 1:17 — So all the generations from Abraham to David were fourteen generations, and from David to the deportation to Babylon fourteen generations, and from the deportation to Babylon to the Christ fourteen generations.  Matthew wants you to know that there’s a few turning points in the story.  There’s a few points where God steps in and where He recharts the course of Israel’s history.  He says first the story starts with Abraham and God calling him out of Ur and into the land that He would give him. And it goes up, up, up until we get to the promise that God would reign forever through his servant David. {Pastor Ryan is showing a graph of the genealogy that looks like an N.}  That was a good day for the nation of Israel.  That was a great season.  From there it went down, down, down, down to exile.  Notice (increments of) fourteen generations and fourteen generations.

If you have your own Bible, circle the word exile (deportation to Babylon) in Matthew 1:17.  Really, they’re carried off into exile in 586 B.C. by the Babylonians.  The nation of Israel is taken; the temple is destroyed.  The people are put in chains and walked to this new city, this new town, where everything is stripped away from them.  But really, exile is simply living in a land apart from God.  Exile is the motif that weaves its way throughout all of Scripture.  From the very first time Adam and Eve sin in the Garden, they are exiled.  There’s a distance between them and their Creator who designed them, who loved them, who calls them.  The Christmas story is a story about a God who sees people in exile.  A God who sees people in the pain of life.  A God who sees people in the hurt of life.  A God who sees people in their dryness, in their despair, in their hopelessness. The Christmas story is God who sees people here in exile, or in exile throughout as they’re separated from Him, and says, “I refuse to let you stay there.”  I want to win you back.  I want to woo you home.  This is the place that God meets us — in exile.

It’s interesting–there’s a number of ways people will say this, but the most popular way that I’ve heard it floating around is this (see if you’ve ever heard this):  “God is too holy to be in the presence of sin.”  You’ve heard that?  The only problem I have with that is the Bible.  If you go back and read Genesis 3, Adam and Eve sin and God is like oh man, I can’t be near you.  I couldn’t possibly…I’m Mr. Clean….I couldn’t possibly enter into this dirty situation.  No!  God is the one saying, “Where are you?  Come home!”  God is the one from the very beginning entering into the story of humanity’s sin, of humanity’s desperation, of humanity’s longing, of humanity’s exile and saying, “I am a God who will chase you down in the midst of any and every situation. Nothing is too dark for me.  Nothing is too dirty for me.”  Nothing is beyond my scope, God says, of entering into your story.  I think we’ve gotten it completely wrong and completely backwards.  God is NOT the one running from us!  We are the ones running from God.  My friend who wrote a book (Josh Butler) said it like this:  “The gospel proclaims that our core problem is not that God can’t stand to be in the presence of sin, it’s that sin can’t stand to be in the presence of God.”  

So, the story continues.   From exile, we see that God enters in.  Matthew 1:17 leads us from exile to Jesus. God is bringing humanity home through the work of the Messiah.  {Will you look up at me for just a second?}  All of history….these forty-one names and forty-two different stories….these generations upon generations….all of history is BATHED in God’s activity.  It’s more than just a list of names (Matthew 1:1-17).  It’s a list of an accounting of God’s pursuit of you and I in brokenness and pain, in exile and hurt.  That’s what it is.  This genealogy is not just the story of Jesus…catch this, catch this, catch this…it’s the heartbeat of God.  I will chase you down and I will love you in the midst of your disobedience and I will pursue you even when you run the other way.  He says I am entering into your story.  Christmas doesn’t just tell us the story of God, it informs us of what God is like.  Here’s what we see:  Christmas reminds us that history is the story of God’s pursuit by grace of the entire human race.  It’s not just a story of a baby being born, it’s a story of a God entering in.  It’s not just a story of a baby being born, it’s a God who’s saying I want you to come home.  As we pray throughout this season….O come, O come Emmanuel/ And ransom captive Israel/ That mourns in lonely exile here/ Until the Son of God appear/ Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel/ Shall come to thee, O Israel.

Matthew wants you to know: Nations, here is your hope.  Israel, here is your Messiah.  But it’s an answer to the age-old question of how we have relationship with God.  It’s an answer to that question that very few people would have expected.  If Matthew 1:1-17 is Jesus’ resumé, he’s got some things on there that you would think would disqualify him from being the savior of the world.  If he was just laying it out there and going alright, here are my qualifications, here’s why I could be the savior of the world, you and I, in our great wisdom, would look back at God and say, “God, there’s no way you save the world like that!”  There’s some names in here and there’s some stories in here that would make you blush.  There’s some things you read and think that there’s no way that could be a part of the story of God.  That story can’t be in there!  There’s no way!  God has to keep his distance from stuff like that.  And yet….we see that Matthew goes out of his way to include some pretty shady characters.  There’s a lot of men that are shady characters in this story, but ladies, we’re going to treat the women this morning.  Matthew includes five women, if you include Mary, in his genealogy of Jesus.  Five women and four of them, for all intents and purposes, should have been left out.  Especially since in this day and age of writing a genealogy like Matthew did, you didn’t have to include women.  In fact, most genealogies didn’t. Luke’s doesn’t.  There’s a reason for that.  But Matthew wants you to know that there’s some women in Jesus’ family tree and there’s some stories in Jesus’ family tree.  The stories inform our view of the Messiah and his role in our life.  Let me just give you three of them this morning.

Originally, I presented this nice, clean, up and to the right sort of flow from Abraham to David and then down…it was nice and level and even and then back up to Jesus.  I just wanted to mention that life is never like that, is it?  Your life isn’t like that.  My life isn’t like that.  This story isn’t like that either.  There’s a lot of twists and turns.  It looks way more like a roller coaster than it does like a ramp.  Let me show you some of the twists and turns.  It says this in Matthew 1:3 — …and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, and Perez the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Ram.    Tamar is one of the women mentioned in this genealogy. If you have your own Bible, will you circle her name?  I want to give you the PG version of her story today.  If you’d like the rated R version, it’s in Genesis 38.  Tamar was married to one of the sons of Judah.  His name was Er.  Er was really evil, really bad and God killed him.  The tradition, in that day, was that you would marry your husband’s brother if your husband passed away.  So Tamar did.  She married Er’s brother, whose name was Onan.  Onan was also evil and while he would have relations with his wife Tamar, he refused to get her pregnant. That was an evil thing by Onan so God kills Onan, also.   {Merry Christmas, by the way!}  Judah says to Tamar, listen, you’re a little bit of a liability to my family tree.  I will give you my youngest, third, and last son for marriage, but I just need some time to breathe here.  I need some time to catch my breath and he needs to get a little bit older and I need to make sure you’re not going to kill him.  Tamar, because a woman gets her worth through her children, decides to take matters into her own hands and decides to get kids somehow and some way.  She dresses up like a prostitute.  She goes and stands at the city gates.  Her father-in-law, Judah, comes by and picks her up as a mistress.  He sleeps with her and gets her pregnant with not one, but two babies.  Their names are Perez and Zerah.  She has these two babies.

Not exactly the story you’d expect to find in the lineage of Jesus.  Genesis 38 has never been taught on a flannel-graph, I’m pretty sure!  And yet, when Matthew gives us Jesus’ resumé, he says this story is in that.  This story of deception, this story of prostitution, this story of deceit and incest and immorality includes Jesus.  I’m reading this going, “You’ve gotta be kidding me!  There has to be a different way other than Perez!”  God says, “No! That’s part of the way I work.  I enter in.”  I think we can relate to Tamar in the fact that she’s in this situation where her life is desperate.  Where she’s at the end of her rope and she doesn’t think there’s any other way out, so what does she do?  She takes the situation into her own hands.  In doing so, she actually turns her plight worse.  Anybody been there?  Where you’re in a terrible situation and tried to get yourself out of it, made a mistake and made it worse.  It’s the famous I Love Lucy clip where Lucy is working in the chocolate shop. She’s popping chocolates into her mouth and then into her hat.  Eventually, it’s just out of control!  That’s Tamar’s life.  And yet…..and yet, we see God NOT writing her off.  Ironically.  God doesn’t write Tamar off.  He writes her IN!  He writes her into His story.  As Martin Luther so beautifully put it:  “Oh, Christ is the kind of person who is not ashamed of sinner — in fact, He even puts them in his family tree!”  When he does that, he starts to bring meaning out of their mess.  

I don’t know if you can relate to Tamar this morning.  My guess is that you can’t relate to her directly, but my guess is that you’ve been in a situation where you thought, “God, I don’t know how you can continue to work in this.”  “God, I don’t know how you’re going to bring good out of this.”  “God, I’ve made this mistake, I’ve done this thing, I’m holding these kids and I’m not sure the way you’re going to work your good in the midst of my pain.” What the Christmas story tells us is that heaven hears.  Heaven hears when we cry out of the mess. Christmas doesn’t say that God is going to clean up every mess, just trust in Him.  The Christmas story DOES say that God is not afraid to enter into any mess.  There’s nothing that’s off of his charts.  There’s nothing he says that’s too bad.  There’s no mess so dirty that God doesn’t say I will enter in.  It doesn’t mean he’s going to make the bad business deal you made because you were nervous earn you a ton of money from it.  It doesn’t mean he’s going to heal every disease and every sickness this side of heaven.  It does mean, though, that when we find ourselves in those situations where we go, “God, I don’t get it,” from the inside out the King of kings and the Lord of lords says, “I will bring meaning from the mess.”    The Scriptures tell us really clearly that God declares: And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Rom. 8:28)  I used to read this and think that the things that have been done to me that are wrong God’s going to work in and the brokenness of his world He’s going to work in.  But what Tamar reminds us of is that even when it’s our fault, God is still at work.  That’s awesome!  Merry Christmas!  He enters into this story.

Tamar represents people we are so scared of, doesn’t she?  People that have done immoral things, people that have been to immoral places.  What if this Christmas, in the same way God enters in, we started to pray, “God, give us the eyes to see the way that you might call us to enter in.”  As Tim Keller puts it:  “The grace of God is so pervasive that even the begats of the Bible are dripping with God’s mercy.”  What if our lives started to reflect His?  How might that change the world?

Here’s the way it continues.  We’re going to sort of parachute in on the next woman named Ruth. ….and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David the king.  The next woman that was included in Jesus’ line was Rahab and then we jump to Ruth.  Let me give you just the Cliff Notes version of Ruth’s life.  Ruth is a Moabite.  She’s part of a group of people who are antagonistic towards Israel and the people of God, and they are God’s enemies.  Ruth is living in the land and she meets a young man from Bethlehem.  His family fled Bethlehem because there was a great famine in the land.  Ruth and this man fall in love.  They’re married ten years and her husband dies.  Around the same time, her husband’s brother died too.  Remember that loophole about how to get kids–if you didn’t have any you could marry the brother.  Well, that’s off the table too.  Ruth is left with her sister-in-law and her mother-in-law.  She has this decision — am I going to stay with Naomi, my mother-in-law, in my land or am I going to go with her back to Bethlehem, the land that SHE’S from, and am I going to stay with her? Ruth, because of her devotion to Naomi, decides to stay with her and go with her and step into this place of unknown.  I’ve lost my husband and now I’m going to lose my home and I’m going to lose everything that I thought my life was going to be; I’m going to step into the unknown and try to follow this God that I’ve heard about.  It’s an amazing story!  But it’s a story that’s latent with brokenness and death and questions and uncertainties.  It’s a story where Ruth eventually comes to marry a man named Boaz and she has a son who becomes the grandfather of King David.  You could go back and read Ruth’s story and here’s what you would see — as the King of kings and the Lord of lords enters into our lives and enters into our loss, He starts to birth and bring about life.  It’s why Ruth’s story is in here.  It’s why Ruth matters.  In the in-between times in life and the exile times in life, she continues to work hard, she continues to pursue God, she continues to pray.  She doesn’t just sit in a room and pray, she gets out in the field and prays.  Ruth reminds us that in our loss and in our pain and in our disappointment heaven hears.  It hears the cry of every longing soul.

Ruth’s life declares to us that in the unthinkable situations in life, God is able to birth unimaginable joy.  Ruth also reminds us that God almost never works on our timeline.  {Anybody want to say amen?!}  She thinks she has her life figured out.  She thinks she knows exactly where she’s going and her life takes this massive, and it turns out to be, beautiful detour.  But her timeline, her plan, her dream, everything is thrown out the window.  I think the hard thing about reading 2000 years of history in one-and-a-half minutes is that we read history, but we live in the ordinary.  We live in days, but we read about decades and centuries and millennia, and it’s a lot harder to see God’s face in the day than it is to see God’s faithfulness in the decade.  So we read these stories and we see that God is weaving through these people and these failures and these hopes and these successes the message that while it may not be on our timeline, God will always keep his word.  He will be good on his promises.

I don’t know about you, but for me, as I think about the holidays coming up and the one that we just came out of, loss is a theme for me.  My guess is that it is for a lot of people in this room.  Many of you know, last week we celebrated the three year anniversary of losing my mom.  She passed away on December 1, 2013.  Every Thanksgiving and every Christmas, I’m reminded that there’s an open seat at our table and that there’s a vacant place in my heart.  I love that Ruth’s story is in here, you guys.  Because God didn’t do it in an instant for Ruth. He did it over the course of a decade, he did it over the course of centuries, he did it over the course of millennia, but eventually, here’s what He did.  He spoke into the loss, life and goodness.  One of the detours that Ruth’s life takes leads her to the destiny that God had designed her to live into.  I just want to throw out over your life that truth as well; that sometimes the detours lead to the destiny.  That God is at work even in those.  Even in the pain, even in the hardship. My dad wrote a song this week in memory of my mom.  The song is called “All That’s Missing Is You.”  I bet there were seasons that Ruth could’ve sung that song.  And yet, if you zoom out enough, you see God’s faithfulness. 

One last story and then we’ll land the plane.  And Jesse the father of David the king.  And David was {Notice that Matthew, in this genealogy, does not need to include the title of David, but he does so because one of Matthew’s main points in writing this genealogy is to link David, who was the king of Israel, and Jesus, who is the king of the world.}  And David was the Father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah.    Now, she has a name. We know her name.  There’s multiple chapters in the Bible about the wife of Uriah.  So why in the world would Matthew not just say  “by Bathsheba,” that’s her name.  Most scholars think that Matthew is giving a not-so-subtle jab not to Bathsheba, but to David.  To David, reminding us that David stole another man’s wife.  You may or may not remember the story (2 Samuel 11 & 12).  Bathsheba is bathing on a rooftop while her husband is off at war.  Most people think Bathsheba is innocent in this.  I’d like to propose to you that maybe she knew that bathing on a rooftop might get her noticed by the king.  Just going to throw it out there.  BUT, I don’t think she’s an innocent observer, all that to say.  She’s bathing naked on a rooftop.  David, the king, sees her.  David sends for her; whether you want to say ‘yes’ or ‘no,’ your only option when the king sends for you is either to say ‘yes’ or to die.  She decides to say yes.  She comes and sleeps with David the king, gets impregnated by him. Her husband’s away at war and that’s an issue.  David calls her husband back from war to have relations with his wife.  He says, “I could never have relations with my wife while people are off at war.”  David says, “Why don’t you go back to war where you will die and I will then be vindicated.  This child that we have together will be mine.”  That’s the Cliff Notes version.  So you have, out of this dysfunctional family of a deeply flawed man, adultery, murder, deception, lies…..and Jesus.  It’s not the resumé we’d expect.  It’s not the story about God we sometimes think we know.  It’s God saying, “I’m so much bigger and I’m so much better and I’m at work in so many more places; and Bathsheba, even the shame that you carry, God can birth salvation out of.”  I say that over you this morning:  That the shame that you carry, God can birth salvation out of.  The consequences come in David and Bathsheba’s life, but please don’t mistake the consequences for God deserting them or God becoming silent in their life.  He IS at work and He IS bringing forth life and hope and meaning out of the mess! Here’s what we see:  God remains faithful even in the midst of our failure.

You guys, in the life of David and in almost every single life in this story, here’s what you can see:  Christmas, the story of the coming of the Messiah, is not a self-improvement plan.  It’s not hey, this is how you can better your life.  It’s not twelve steps to a great marriage.  It’s none of that.  It’s not about how WE can become better, it’s about how GOD pursues us in our junk, in our failures, in our loss, in our mess.  THAT’S what the story of Christmas is.  It’s God parachuting into the brokenness of His world as the angels declare “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news {Not good advice.} of great joy that will be for all the people. (Luke 2:10)   Christmas is not a story that tells us we should live better lives.  No!  Christmas is a story that declares to us:  Christ the Savior IS born!  And he’s born into messes.  He’s born into loss.  And He’s born into failure.  And He’s born into whatever situation you find yourself in today.  So along with the great, great hymn, we can pray o come, o come, Emmanuel and ransom (and bring back) the captives of Israel who mourn in lonely exile here.

And when Jesus the Messiah gathered his disciples around a table on the night that he was betrayed, he took bread and he said, “This is my body which I’m giving for you.”  He took wine and said, “This is my blood which I’m going to shed and give for you.”  In doing that, what he’s saying is Israel, I’m bringing you home.  I’m forgiving your sin.  I’m inviting you back in.  I’m parachuting into your story and I’m making a way by my own life given for you and my own blood shed for you.  As followers of Jesus, when we gather around this table, when we gather around THIS story, we’re reminded that no mess is too dirty, that no loss is too strong, and that no failure is terminal, but that Jesus the Messiah enters into it all!  And then the song we sing — Until….UNTIL the Son of God appear….    We come this morning to the table to celebrate….He has!  He has come!  Heaven has heard! By faith, our story now is woven into His and His story will never end.  Let’s pray.

Jesus, this morning as we approach your table, the cry of our heart is o come, o come, Emmanuel, would you ransom us?  Would you bring us back from wandering?  From slavery?  From the land?  Would you bring us back to yourself?  God, would you remind us today that you parachute into and that you insert yourself into any story and that by faith we’ll receive you.  As we come this morning, remind us of that King of kings and Lord of lords, we pray.  In your name, Jesus.  Amen.