Originally published Friday, 04 December 2015.
"An angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: 'Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel' (which means, God with us)” (Matthew 1:21-23).
This is the season of Advent, a particular time Christians set aside to dwell on the birth of our Savior. During the weeks leading up to Christmas, we take time to focus on the prophecies fulfilled in Jesus' birth, the wonders of the incarnation, and the purpose for his coming.
Christmas is often a hectic season, one in which we get caught up in what is expected of us this time of year. We go from one event to another, wrap present after present, and bake all manner of pies and cookies, only to end up stressed and spent, missing the Christ-babe all together.
My prayer for you this Advent, my friends, is that you would take time to set aside the to-lists and ponder in your heart what it means that God became flesh and made his dwelling among us. I pray that you might seek to understand and grasp the significance of a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a humble feeding trough. I pray that you might embrace with renewed wonder the woven pieces that make up the tapestry of God's story of redemption, culminating in the birth of Jesus the Christ.
May you spend time considering this Immanuel, the one Paul describes in Colossians 1 as: “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross” (vs. 15-20).
Immanuel did not come to remain as a baby. He came to fulfill a purpose. He came to earth so that we could be restored back into right relationship with our Maker. So Immanuel left that feeding trough, grew into a man, faced the trials and temptations of this life without sin, and then died upon the cross in our place. In conquering sin and death, he rose from the dead, ascended into heaven, and then sent his Spirit to make his home within us. As Paul Tripp notes, “the whole redemptive story marches toward Immanuel, the Redeemer who would destroy sin’s dominion in our hearts by making our hearts the place where he, in his power, wisdom, and glory, would dwell.” (in Whiter Than Snow: Meditations on Sin and Mercy p.103)
I pray that we would all pause in stillness this Advent. May we cast aside the season's distractions and ponder as Mary did the wonder of a child born to save. May we rejoice that the Creator of the universe, the one who flung the stars in the sky and by whose word everything exists made a way to redeem us and live within us--through this Immanuel, Jesus, the Son of God.
Immanuel has come. He is with us. And for those he has redeemed, he has made his home in us. My prayer for you and for me is that this Advent season would draw us into deeper understanding of who Immanuel is and what he has done.
Merry Christmas to you and yours!
"Mighty God (Is. 9:6) is the name of this child. The child in the manger is none other than God himself. Nothing greater can be said: God became a child. In the Jesus child of Mary lives the almighty God. Wait a minute! Don't speak; stop thinking! Stand still before this statement! God became a child! Here he is, poor like us, miserable and helpless like us, a person of flesh and blood like us, our brother. And yet he is God; he is might. Where is the divinity, where is the might of the child? In the divine love in which he became like us. His poverty in the manger in his might. In the might of love he overcomes the chasm between God and humankind, he overcomes sin and death, he forgives sin and awakens from the dead. Kneel down before this miserable manger, before this child of poor people, and repeat in faith the stammering words of the prophet: "Mighty God!" And he will be your God and your might." --Dietrich Bonhoeffer