God With Us

As we celebrate Christmas, let's remember the motive for the festivities: God's presence on earth.

Christmas can do strange things to people. For about one month every winter, many Christians and churches shift gears and enter frantic holiday mode. Decorations go up, radio stations churn out the same 25 songs ad nauseam, to-do lists grow longer, credit cards get maxed out, turkeys are stuffed, gifts are exchanged, sparkly dresses are donned, and grand parties are hosted.

Somewhere in all the clamor and commotion, we may hear Jesus’ name or catch a glimmer of His glory. It’s not that He is absent; sometimes His presence is simply difficult to perceive amid all the distractions.

Ironically, the essence of Christmas is just that—Jesus’ presence. We sing “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” and remember that this name, uttered by Isaiah 700 years before the Savior’s birth, means “God with us.” The prophet foretold the arrival of a virgin-born child who would live on earth as God incarnate and then die to pay our penalty for sin (7:14; 53:5), making it possible for man to enjoy His presence eternally. We should recognize, however, that God’s interest in relationship with humanity was not limited to a brief period that occurred 2,000 years ago. The Bible shows that this divine focus extends far beyond the Savior’s 33 years on earth—from creation through eternity.

READ

 Genesis 16:6-14; Genesis 22:9-18. Starting in the first chapter of the Bible (Gen. 1:28), God made Himself known to man in a variety of ways, including audible voice, inspiration, dreams, and visions. In addition, Scripture describes visible appearances of God, known as “theophanies”: Abraham’s visitor, who foretold Sarah’s miraculous pregnancy, and Jacob’s wrestling partner appeared as men but were clearly divine (Gen. 18:13-14, Gen. 32:29-30). Likewise, the man Joshua encountered before leading the Jericho campaign is identified as “commander of the Lord’s army,” who, notably, did not refuse Joshua’s reverence or prostration. In fact, he instructed Joshua to remove his sandals, just as Moses was told to do in front of the burning bush (Josh. 5:15 NIV).

Other passages speak about “the angel of the Lord” appearing to men and women. Scholars tell us that this particular wording in the Old Testament—with the definite article the—indicates not an ordinary angel but, rather, the pre-incarnate Christ. Genesis 16 supports this idea, as “the angel” had power to multiply Hagar’s descendants (v. 10), and she acknowledged Him as God (v. 13). A few chapters later, when He shows up again to prevent Abraham from sacrificing Isaac, He refers to Himself as the Lord (22:11-12, 16).

 John 1:1-5, 9-14. The opening words of John’s gospel are not traditionally read at Christmas services because they don’t specifically mention Jesus’ birth. Yet they articulate beautifully God’s move to live among His beloved creatures, as well as His motive: to give those who believe in Him the right to be called His children.

 Matthew 28:20; John 14:1-4, 15-18; Acts 2:1-4. Both before and after the crucifixion, Jesus assured the disciples that He would always be with His followers. Not only would He provide His Holy Spirit as an ever-present teacher, counselor, and friend to indwell children of God for the duration of earthly life; He was also going to prepare a place in heaven, where believers will enjoy eternity in His presence.

 Revelation 21:1-8. In the last two chapters of the Bible—Revelation 21 and 22—John describes this eternal home in vivid detail. Verses 3 and 4 of chapter 21 are especially poignant. They indicate that heaven isn’t simply a reward for those who faithfully follow Christ. Nor is it solely for the believer’s enjoyment; it is also for God’s. His desire for relationship with us will ultimately be fulfilled when His dwelling place becomes ours and we experience true, lasting joy.

REFLECT

 Why does Jesus’ incarnation matter? What do these passages indicate about the significance of His birth? Matthew 4:1-11; Romans 3:21-25 and Romans 5:19; Philippians 2:5-8; 1 Timothy 2:5; Hebrews 4:14-16; 1 Peter 2:21-24

 How has Jesus’ incarnation made a difference in your own life? What are some specific ways He has revealed Himself to you or touched your life?

RESPOND

As Christmas approaches, consider how reflecting on why Jesus was born—instead of only on how or where—can make a difference in your celebrations.

 List some ways you can experience a deeper connection with Jesus—God with us—this year.

 Strive to share that passion with family and others with whom you fellowship.

• Pray that the Lord will make Himself known to you in a special way this Christmas and in the new year.

REVISIT

• Instead of merely humming or singing familiar Christmas carols, take time to read them—without music—and reflect on the messages. A few suggestions:
• 
O Come, O Come, Emmanuel (try to find the original seven-stanza version)
 
God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen
• 
Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus
 
Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
 
If you have a to-do list for Christmas, be sure to include specific things you will do to stay connected with the Lord, such as meditating on Scripture, pausing to worship, or praying with a loved one. Schedule these “tasks” into your calendar so that they will get done. If you begin to feel overwhelmed with how much you need to do, prayerfully cross off your list any non-essentials that compete with God for your attention.


Related Topics:  Intimacy with God

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14 Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel.

5 But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed.

6 But Abram said to Sarai, Behold, your maid is in your power; do to her what is good in your sight." So Sarai treated her harshly, and she fled from her presence.

9 Then they came to the place of which God had told him; and Abraham built the altar there and arranged the wood, and bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood.

10 Abraham stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay his son.

11 But the angel of the LORD called to him from heaven and said, Abraham, Abraham!" And he said, Here I am."

12 He said, Do not stretch out your hand against the lad, and do nothing to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me."

13 Then Abraham raised his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him a ram caught in the thicket by his horns; and Abraham went and took the ram and offered him up for a burnt offering in the place of his son.

14 Abraham called the name of that place The LORD Will Provide, as it is said to this day, In the mount of the LORD it will be provided."

15 Then the angel of the LORD called to Abraham a second time from heaven,

16 and said, By Myself I have sworn, declares the LORD, because you have done this thing and have not withheld your son, your only son,

17 indeed I will greatly bless you, and I will greatly multiply your seed as the stars of the heavens and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your seed shall possess the gate of their enemies.

18 In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice."

28 God blessed them; and God said to them, Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth."

13 And the LORD said to Abraham, Why did Sarah laugh, saying, `Shall I indeed bear a child, when I am so old?'

14 Is anything too difficult for the LORD? At the appointed time I will return to you, at this time next year, and Sarah will have a son."

29 Then Jacob asked him and said, Please tell me your name." But he said, Why is it that you ask my name?" And he blessed him there.

30 So Jacob named the place Peniel, for he said, I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been preserved."

15 The captain of the LORD'S host said to Joshua, Remove your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy." And Joshua did so.

10 Moreover, the angel of the LORD said to her, I will greatly multiply your descendants so that they will be too many to count."

13 Then she called the name of the LORD who spoke to her, You are a God who sees"; for she said, Have I even remained alive here after seeing Him?"

11 But the angel of the LORD called to him from heaven and said, Abraham, Abraham!" And he said, Here I am."

12 He said, Do not stretch out your hand against the lad, and do nothing to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me."

16 and said, By Myself I have sworn, declares the LORD, because you have done this thing and have not withheld your son, your only son,

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

2 He was in the beginning with God.

3 All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.

4 In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men.

5 The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.

9 There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man.

10 He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him.

11 He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him.

12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name,

13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

14 And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.

20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age."

1 Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me.

2 In My Father's house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you.

3 If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.

4 And you know the way where I am going."

15 If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.

16 I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever;

17 that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you.

18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.

1 When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place.

2 And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting.

3 And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them.

4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance.

1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea.

2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband.

3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them,

4 and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away."

5 And He who sits on the throne said, Behold, I am making all things new." And He said, Write, for these words are faithful and true."

6 Then He said to me, It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost.

7 He who overcomes will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son.

8 But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death."

1 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.

2 And after He had fasted forty days and forty nights, He then became hungry.

3 And the tempter came and said to Him, If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread."

4 But He answered and said, It is written, `MAN SHALL NOT LIVE ON BREAD ALONE, BUT ON EVERY WORD THAT PROCEEDS OUT OF THE MOUTH OF GOD.'"

5 Then the devil took Him into the holy city and had Him stand on the pinnacle of the temple,

6 and said to Him, If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down; for it is written, `HE WILL COMMAND HIS ANGELS CONCERNING YOU'; and `ON their HANDS THEY WILL BEAR YOU UP, SO THAT YOU WILL NOT STRIKE YOUR FOOT AGAINST A STONE.'"

7 Jesus said to him, On the other hand, it is written, `YOU SHALL NOT PUT THE LORD YOUR GOD TO THE TEST.'"

8 Again, the devil took Him to a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory;

9 and he said to Him, All these things I will give You, if You fall down and worship me."

10 Then Jesus said to him, Go, Satan! For it is written, `YOU SHALL WORSHIP THE LORD YOUR GOD, AND SERVE HIM ONLY.'"

11 Then the devil left Him; and behold, angels came and began to minister to Him.

21 But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets,

22 even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction;

23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

24 being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus;

25 whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed;

19 For as through the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous.

5 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus,

6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped,

7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.

8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

5 For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,

14 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.

15 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.

16 Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

21 For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps,

22 WHO COMMITTED NO SIN, NOR WAS ANY DECEIT FOUND IN HIS MOUTH;

23 and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously;

24 and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.

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