Sermon for 12.18.22 “This present sign”


Text: Isaiah 7:10–17
Theme: This present sign
Other Lessons: Psalm 24; Romans 1:1–7; Matthew 1:18–25

A. In the Name of the Father…Amen.
B. The Old Testament lesson serves as our sermon text for this morning.
C. Grace, peace, and mercy be yours from God our heavenly Father through
our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
D. Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, let us pray:
→ O Lord, give us grace to walk before You all the days of this our
pilgrimage with a good conscience and pure mind, that when You shall appear
to reward every man according to his deeds, we may rejoice and not be
ashamed before You at Your coming. Grant this for the sake of Jesus Christ,
our Lord and Savior. Amen.

A. Louis IX, who ruled France in the thirteenth century, was once
reportedly asked why he signed his name “Louis of Poissy” and not “Louis
IX, King of France” (which would have been the traditional way for a king
to sign letters and documents).
1. He responded by pointing out that Poissy was the location of his
2. Then he is said to have explained, “I think more of the place where I
was baptized than of Reims Cathedral where I was crowned.
3. It is a greater thing to be a child of God than to be the ruler of a
4. This last I shall lose at death, but the other will be my passport to an
everlasting glory.”
5. This saying was etched in stone in front of the baptismal font at the
former St. Louis Catholic Church in Cleveland Heights, Ohio.
6. It reflects the Christian conviction that Baptism is the most important
day in the life of a follower of Jesus.
7. It identifies a Christian as a child of God who will live eternally with
8. This identity manifests itself daily—not only in the signing of one’s
name, but also in the sacrificial and selfless life of service to others.
B. There is no question: the sign King Ahaz refused to ask, the virgin
birth, was among the greatest signs given to mankind (Isaiah 7:14).
1. But in our Baptism, God has given us the sign that everything the
virgin-born Christ accomplished by his life, death, and resurrection is
personally and eternally ours.
C. “ ‘Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call
his name Immanuel’ (which means, God with us)” (Matthew 1:23).
1. Yes, God is present with us.
1. With a few exceptions, the people of God have often experienced life in
a way that makes them think God is absent.
A. That’s an astounding claim, given the common experience among God’s
people of his apparent absence.
1. Most of us, at some point or another, have wondered whether God is
really with us.
2. We face great difficulties, and we wonder if God cares.
3. We encounter things we can’t explain or understand, and we wonder if God
really exists.
4. We cry out to God on our knees but hear nothing in response other than
our own sighs.
5. We slog through this life, never experiencing much of a spiritual high
or low, and we begin to question if God is with us.
6. With a few exceptions, the people of God have often experienced life in
a way that makes them think God is absent.
2. Ahaz only continued a millennia-old theme of God’s people doubting his
A. You’re not alone when you wonder.
1. You’re not the first to question God’s presence.
2. It’s safe to say that very few have never questioned God’s presence.
3. In fact, those who question God’s presence are actually only continuing
a several thousand year old theme of God’s people doubting his presence.
B. Before the fall into sin, God walked and talked with his human
1. His presence was obvious.
2. Adam and Eve did not doubt that he was there.
3. They doubted his reliability, all thanks to the serpent.
4. But that’s a different problem altogether.
5. His presence was obvious.
C. After the fall, however, God’s people have often doubted his presence
among them.
1. The episode with the golden calf is a good case in point.
2. In , God told Moses to meet him on top of Mount Sinai so that he could
give him his Law.
3. Moses was going to be gone for a while.
4. In the meantime, the people got antsy.
5. They began to question God’s presence.
6. By the time we get to Exodus 32, they’ve concluded that God does not
A. Or at least, that he is no longer with them.
1. Never mind the ten plagues that God brought on Egypt to deliver them.
2. Never mind the parting of the Red Sea by which God rescued them.
3. Never mind the manna and quail that God provided in the wilderness so
that the people wouldn’t starve.
4. “What have you done for me lately?” the people asked.
5. When God did not respond, they decided he was no longer there.
D. That’s what happened in our reading today from Isaiah 7.
1. King Ahaz doubted God was with him.
2. He had a reason to doubt:
A. foreign armies were mounting around him.
3. But God had promised to be with his people forever.
A. God had promised to protect and preserve them.
4. But Ahaz and the people of God looked around at the present
circumstances and were not convinced.
E. That’s when Isaiah entered the scene.
1. God sent Isaiah to give a message to Ahaz.
2. His message was simple:
A. God is with you, Ahaz, whether you believe it or not.
B. He promised he would be with you.
C. Believe him. If you have doubts, simply ask him for a sign—anything you
want—and he will show you that he is with you.
3. Can you imagine that?
A. An invitation from God to ask him for a sign?
4. But Ahaz wouldn’t do it.
A. Why not? Because he didn’t want to trouble the Lord with such a request
B. No, it was because he had already lost his faith.
C. He had already put his faith in a “golden calf”:
1. this time it was an alliance with a foreign army.
3. Despite his and our doubts, Isaiah spoke God’s Word that promised his
A. That’s when Isaiah spoke those words that Matthew would quote seven
hundred years later.
1. You don’t trust God enough to ask for a sign?
A. “The Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall
conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel” (verse 14).
B. God Promises to Be Graciously Present in His Creation through Jesus.
4. God’s presence in Christ is a hidden presence.
A. Isaiah’s response to Ahaz’s lack of faith was to promise a peculiar sign
of God’s presence.
1. He promised a child who would be born to a maiden.
2. This is hardly the kind of sign that one would expect from the Almighty.
3. But this would be no ordinary child.
4. He was to be called Immanuel:
A. “God with us.”
B. Moreover, God would be with his people to save them from their sins.
B. Immanuel is Jesus. Jesus is Immanuel.
1. The child who was also the eternal Son of God.
2. He is God’s sign.
3. He is God’s proof.
4. He is God’s guarantee that he is with us.
5. That is what makes Christmas such a big deal.
6. That’s why we’ve been getting ready to celebrate Christmas since the day
after Thanksgiving.
7. On December 25, we celebrate the fact that God is with us:
A. that he is with us to save us.
C. But God’s people of every age question whether God is with us or not.
1. We have our own golden calf episodes.
2. God doesn’t behave in ways that we think he should, and our faith slides
into disbelief.
3. We don’t see God solving our problems or healing our diseases or fixing
our families or answering our questions when we want, and we are tempted to
conclude that he is not with us.
4. God’s presence in Christ is still often hidden from us.
D. That’s why God gives us another sign.
1. That sign is Baptism.
2. The Lutheran Confessions speak of Baptism (and the Lord’s Supper) as
signs of God’s gracious disposition toward us.
3. The Augsburg Confession describes the sacraments as:
A. “signs and testimonies of God’s will toward us” that “awaken and confirm
faith” in us (Augsburg Confession 13, paragraphs 1–2).
4. The Apology draws on the Early Church when it says:
A. “It has been well said by Augustine that a Sacrament is a visible Word,
because the rite is received by the eyes and is, as it were, a picture of
the Word, illustrating the same thing as the Word” (Ap to the Augsburg
Confession 13. paragraph 5).
E. When we think of Baptism as a sign of God’s grace toward us as we ought
to, we begin to see the importance Baptism has for every day of our lives.
1. Just as Louis IX thought so long ago.
5. God’s presence in the world today is made known through his people as
they love and serve one another.
A. Baptism is not only a sign of God’s gracious will toward us.
1. It is also a sign to the world.
2. Baptism signals to outsiders what we are as Christians (Augsburg
Confession 13, paragraph 1), but it is our baptismal living that makes
them stop to notice.
3. As Paul writes in Romans 6, our Baptism means newness of life.
4. This life manifests itself in sacrificial service to others:
A. both to fellow believers in the Church
B. and to those in need outside the Church.
5. When the everyday lives of God’s people are shaped by their Baptism into
Christ, the watching world sees the hidden presence of God.
6. God’s presence in the world today is made known through his people as
they love and serve one another.


A. It’s exactly one week until Christmas, and we all have an awful lot yet
to do to get ready for it.
1. As you hurry through all that remaining business, remember that in
Christ, God is present with us.
2. Jesus is Immanuel, God with us.
3. And just as important, he is God with you.
4. You know that because of your Baptism.
5. You were baptized into Christ.
B. Running, scurrying, hurrying on this errand and that, to this mall and
that store, as you welcome guests and make your social rounds, remember
your Baptism:
1. in the way you treat clerks and other shoppers,
2. in the way you treat visiting loved ones who may be hard to love,
3. in the way you think about the gifts you select for others.
4. Remember your Baptism as a sign that the babe in the manger is not only
the Savior of the world.
5. He is also your Savior from your sin, and now he is your strength for
faithful living in his name. Amen.
C. Let us pray:
→ LSB 361:4 O Little Town of Bethlehem
O holy Child of Bethlehem,
Descend to us, we pray;
Cast out our sin, and enter in,
Be born in us today.
We hear the Christmas angels
The great glad tidings tell;
O come to us, abide with us,
Our Lord Immanuel!
Text: Public domain
D. The peace of God, which transcends all understanding, guard your hearts
and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.
E. In the Name of the Father…Amen.