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In Full Context

... a name which means 'God is with us
Matthew 1:18-24

Sermon Topic Good News

Sermon Week Fourth Sunday of Advent Cycle A

Scripture Summary Matthew 1:23


Nothing under the sun exists entirely unto itself. "No man is an island," the poet John Donne wrote. Only by seeing ourselves in the full context of that which preceded us, that which surrounds us, and that which is to follow, can we come to grips with our own meaning and purpose as human beings.

The largest dictionary in the English language 1 devotes 10,000 words toward defining the word "think" in its various contexts. The word "strike" means one thing on the sports' page and another thing on the business page. "Dribble" means one thing to a basketball player and another thing to the mother of an infant. "Battery" means one thing to an automobile repair person, and another thing to an artillery officer. Everything derives its meaning from that which precedes, follows and surrounds it -- that is to say, from its context.

The eminent biologist, Julian Huxley, said that man is the most adaptable of all living creatures. Man has fought extinction. Man has survived and developed by adapting to a steadily changing environment: from the ocean, to the shores, to the land proper, to the trees, and back to the land. But mankind's adaptations to changing contexts are no more astonishing than the development of each person's individual life.

As a species and as individuals, man survives and develops physically by adapting to his environment. We live within a certain context that is proper to us. And context is a matter of life and death - not only on the physical level, but also on the spiritual level, as we learn from the Apostle Paul in Second Corinthians. Throughout his long letter Paul describes his personal spiritual journey -- from sickness to health, from weakness to strength, from anguish to joy -- in terms of moving from an old to a new context. He speaks of being spiritually crushed beyond endurance, of despairing of life, of feeling like a man "condemned to death." He speaks of affliction and doubt and persecution, of "trials, difficulties, distresses, beatings, imprisonment and riots." He speaks of "hard, sleepless nights, and [...]

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