It was near Christmas in 1977 and I was making the 45-minute drive from school to my home in Fairmount, Indiana. My new wife and I had recently joined a small Bible-based fellowship and most of my commute had been given to thinking on these events. Turning west down State Road 26, I flipped on the radio. Immediately the sounds of “Angels We Have Heard On High” filled the car. I began singing along. Soon, I raised a hand in praise to God. I wept with joy. Perhaps for the first time in my life, I was singing a Christmas Carol like I knew the One called Emmanuel, “God with us.”
“Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.” (Matthew 1:23 KJV).
Before that point, I’d accepted Christ as a cultural icon, a moral checkpoint by which I gauged my behavior or judged the actions of others. But Jesus is not about setting a “high bar” for the purpose of keeping out all who aren’t clean enough, who aren’t smart enough or who were born to the wrong families. The message of Christmas is that in Jesus, God has made a way to reconcile His Creation to Himself.
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In this very angry world, many envision a very angry God. On the contrary, John 3:16 says that “God so loved the world,” that He reached out to us. Christmas is a time to remember our weakness and God’s great love to give us a Redeemer. Christmas. It’s a time we remember Luke 2:14, when the angels sang, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.”
Emmanuel, God With Us
This Jesus, whom we celebrate, did not remain a baby. He grew to be a man and calls all who hear his voice to “Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand,” (Matthew 4:17 NASB). Nonetheless, Jesus’ call to turn and serve God is not issued from a lofty, distant throne. Philippians 2:7 says the Son of God humbled Himself and was “made in the likeness of men.” In other words, He walked the earth as we walk. He suffered the same weariness, pain, joy, and sorrow that we suffer.
“For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15 NASB).
Emmanuel, God In Us
We know this Jesus, born of humble means, as the Christ, the Anointed One of God. His death and resurrection on our behalf tore down the separation between our Holy God and us. In Colossians 1:25-27, the Apostle Paul speaks of the “riches of the glory of this mystery,” which he defines as, “Christ in you, the hope of glory.”
“I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” (Galatians 2:20 NASB).
Emmanuel, God through Us
At Christmas, we remember the birth of Christ, who crushed sin and death on our behalf. Jesus continues to minister today through His believers. In II Corinthians 5:18, the Apostle Paul reasons that even as we’ve been reconciled to God through Christ, we have received a ministry of reconciliation. Now that we have been redeemed, each of us has a place and a purpose in expressing His will in the earth. In speaking to His disciples just before His ascension, Jesus says,
“You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” (Acts 1:8 NASB).
Emmanuel, God For Us
In Emmanuel, we have flesh and blood proof of God’s love for the world. A cynic sees very little joy in this age. Without Christ, Christmas is only a moment’s pause in the long slog to a non-negotiable end. But knowing Jesus, the Christian can sing “Joy to the World, the Lord is Come.”
“And we know that the Son of God has come, and has given us understanding so that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life.” (I John 5:20 NASB).
I never tire of reading, “If God is for us, who can ever be against us? Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else?” (Romans 8:31-32 NLT). Day after day we suffer the weariness of these times just like anyone one else, yet we’ve been left to stand and testify of God’s love and grace toward those who will believe. Christmas is still God’s proclamation of joy to the world through Christ Jesus.
“But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:37-39 NASB).