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Posts Tagged ‘Christmas’

Emmanuel: God With Us

Emmanuel

For every person who has ever lived, there are truths that surround us like the sky above – God is above all, and in all, and we owe our every moment of life to Him.

“I have created you – carefully designed you from the smallest cell all the way to the color of your eyes.”

Wonder-filled thought, that God Himself knit us together in our mother’s womb.

“I know you – your every thought and desire; your every hope and pain; your every deed and disappointment.”

How often we feel alone and unknown in this life – yet God knows us far more deeply than we know ourselves.

“I care for you every moment of every day, even when you are blind to Me.”

Today’s provision of food and water and a stable earth; the blessings of sun and sleep; the next breath and the next after it – all are from His generous hand.

I am.

The universe is not some cold, meaningless place in which we drift, alone and void of meaning. We are, because God is. We are created by an infinite King with nobility woven into our DNA.

Yet, blinded by the hostility of sin, we refuse to love Him – even acknowledge Him – in the midst of all of His blessings.

But to the Christian, the marvels don’t end there. Even greater riches are poured out upon us through our adoption as sons and daughters in Jesus Christ.

I am your Savior.”

We could not and would not come to Him; but He comes to us as the loving, powerful rescuer. In the very name of Jesus is the meaning, “Deliverer.”

I am your God and Father.”

God as Creator, Lord, and Judge – these are frightful realities for a sin-stained soul. But God as adoptive Father, embracing the wandering sons and daughters of Adam and bringing them home to Himself – this is unspeakable mercy.

I am with you – always.”

Life on a fallen world is scary. With a sovereign God going before us, however, pledged never to leave or forsake us – we can move forward with confident faith.

I am in you.”

Through the outpoured Holy Spirit, God takes up actual, personal residence in our souls, uniting us to Himself for time and eternity. No force inside or outside of us is greater than His presence.

These are the pillars on which we build our lives. Jesus’ coming to earth is not some faraway feel-good narrative; it is the story of God not only overseeing the universe He has created, but reaching down to the very creatures who have despised Him, and pouring out mercy upon mercy. Not just once 2,000 years ago; but today, this moment.

Emmanuel – God is with us. Our denial does not change His reality. He is; and He comes to us today, inviting us to a table overflowing with reconciliation and grace. Let us not be ungrateful rebels and refuse Him entrance into our hearts.

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It’s All A Gift

The Gift of Life – God dwells around us.

The Gift of Emmanuel – God dwells with us.

The Gift of the Holy Spirit – God dwells in us.

We are here, first and foremost, to receive – not perform. External conformity out of fear is not receiving a gift. It’s coercion.

A healthy Christian heart is fueled by humble gratitude. After all – “What do we have that we did not receive?”

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God Within and Without

Some of the wording describing the “in-ness” of Christ in the Paul’s letter to the Colossians is mind-blowing.

  • Christ is before all things, and in Him all things hold together
  • It was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fulness to dwell in Him
  • In Christ are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge
  • In Him all the fulness of Deity dwells in bodily form

So – Jesus cannot be considered apart from His “in-ness” with God the Father, and indeed, with all creation. He is not some remote and limited historical figure of dubious significance. According to the gospel, He is the image of the all-wise God. Nothing came into being apart from Christ; nothing continues to exist without Christ.

From the intricate marvels of individual DNA strands, to the vast stretches of innumerable galaxies, and everywhere in between, resides the Creator and Lord of all. The barren notion that {all things = deity} is trumped by the truth that the Divine God is before, above, around, and in all the things He created.

But that’s not all.

This same Jesus takes up residence in the hearts of His people. He seizes our darkened souls, kicks out our selfish addiction to immorality, and renews us continually in gracious love. Not in some faraway, abstract sense. But in actual, real-time presence.

And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach…(the mystery of the gospel is) Christ in you, the hope of glory.

The fulness of God is in Christ, with no limits. And the fulness of the living Christ is in us who believe. The gospel is not merely one of many religious messages. It is Emmanuel – God with us.

Christmas is about the light and hope of God coming to earth in the person of Jesus. But Jesus didn’t just do some 33-year gig and go away. He, for all ages, dwells (through His limitless Spirit) on earth in His body, the church.

And since the fulness of Christ is within us, we have enduring hope. The God without limits has come into our hearts.

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Christmas In 4 Words

God promised.

He delivered.

Merry Christmas!

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A Toast to Joseph

Most of the attention of Christmas centers around the newborn baby Jesus, and rightly so. There are hymns about his birth, songs about Mary, themes of shepherds and angels, stories of wise men and kings.

It’s not every day that you get a Savior born in a stable. On that stage long ago, and in countless Christmas plays since, we see the scenery set with barn animals and bright stars while a virgin and her child are center-stage, brightly lit for all to see and adore.

And then there’s Joseph.

The husband who was not the father, the father who would care for another’s Son.

The next few decades are mostly wrapped in obscurity, as the biblical record jumps almost, but not quite, without touching down again between the birth and the public ministry of Jesus the Messiah. Yet I cannot help but think about that young man Joseph, who made the noble choice to stand by his young bride who would carry a Savior in her womb.

As was the norm in those days, he had to grow up fast. Joseph, a poor man with little to his name, had large responsibilities thrust upon him suddenly, along with the social humiliation of a pregnant wife-to-be whom he not yet bedded. But the word of God and the pledge of his bride were enough for him, and in that remarkable setting of the birth their first-born, he had to become a man, a man who would shepherd the Man destined to become the great Shepherd.

We know almost nothing of those coming-of-age years under Joseph’s care. The spotlight is not on him in the biblical record. But parenthood is best seen by the end result. His young man turned the entire civilized world upside-down. Yes, He was the Son of a divine Father. But He was also Joseph’s son during those formative years.

Perhaps it’s just was well that Joseph’s fumbles and perplexities and struggles to provide a living and an example are shrouded in forgetfulness. A boy becoming a man is difficult at best; a man becoming a man is no less problematic. But, like most forward-thinking Dads, I’m betting Joseph was happy to be behind the scenes while his son’s star was rising. After all, that’s why you do the Dad thing.

Way to go, Joseph. My Christmas hat’s off to you.

Image source

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There are advantages to growing up in an old New England town. You gain a sense of history as you see houses that are 100, 200, even 300 years old mixed in with the vinyl siding and thermal windows of modernity. You can almost feel the ghostly presence of colonial ancestors, as you sit in a steepled white church once peopled by hardy townsfolk of a bygone era, whose names live on in some of the families in the neighborhood. You may even get to see one of the thousands of places where George Washington slept – yes, in fact, we made a high school film about just one of those homes on good old Worthington Ridge in Berlin, CT.

colonial-candlesBut if you grew up on Worthington Ridge, from, say, 30 years or so ago on back to multiple generations, you remember one thing for sure about Christmastime. The candles in the windows.

It was an unwritten and almost entirely-obeyed rule – on this historic street, the only Christmas lights allowed were electric candles in the window. You’d drive up and down the Ridge at the end of December, and your eyes would be filled with the glorious sight of home after colonial home, all lit up by candles and little (or nothing) else. The church, the library, and later, when it was finally re-furbished, even the old Worthington School, behind which was tucked our humble abode. Almost every house, and every window, had a candle.

Now the center of the Ridge remained very true to this tradition all during my growing up years. The less historic north and south ends of the road, being of more recent vintage, tended to have some “strays” who did not keep to the traditions of the fathers. And, alas, as time has gone on, the Ridge has become peopled with a mix of those who keep, and those who ignore, the old paths. Much of the glory is passed, never, I fear, to return.

Yet in memory, it remains. And even in these days, some neighborhoods maintain their own traditions, such as one riotously lit-up neighborhood in Boonton (NJ) where I live, where everyone puts out luminaries on the street each Christmas Eve, and cars cruise through (including ours) each year to enjoy the sight. And families build their own traditions as well. Some we borrow – yes, our wonderful old colonial home sports candles in the windows. And some we’ve created – every Christmas Eve, we sit down to enjoy George C. Scott as Ebenezer Scrooge, while munching on my wife’s delicious pepperoni bread. This, after having decorated the tree a couple weeks before, always with a chilled bottle of Gewurtztraminer for accompaniment (something we started 25 years ago or so).

Tomorrow morning, I’ll light the fire in the fireplace, as our tradition dictates. We’ll read the Christmas story together, and give thanks for our countless blessings. We’ll start with the stockings, and enjoy a hearty breakfast, as we have done for many years. We’ll open gifts in a very orderly fashion, as practiced by my family growing up. And we’ll feast with friends.

And I trust that as my rapidly growing-up flock eventually starts leaving the nest and starting their own families, they’ll adopt some cherished traditions, and begin new ones. Just so long as there are candles in the windows. I don’t think that’s too much for this New England boy to ask…

(Image credit)

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