This holiday season I have been pondering and rolling around in my head, the little seasonal rhyme, ‘Jesus is the reason for the season.’ It fits well as a lapel pin, even hangs proudly as an ornament on our trees. I like it! The message is clear and points to Jesus!
Yet… I began to think of this in theological terms, the accuracy of it. I know… I KNOW you are rolling your eyes at this point. But bear with me. I am a people watcher, I watch how they walk, how they talk, their mannerisms, their facial expressions (there is much entertainment in it… ‘nough said’). The other day as I was Christmas shopping I watched their faces, looked into their eyes, wondering if THEY knew Jesus. Then it dawned on me – ‘THEY are the reason for the season!’
The season is Christmas. Christmas is JESUS, His birth. “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whosoever believes in Him, should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16) Jesus came to earth, the divine embodied in human form, His life pointed to the Father, His death representing us, He resurrected in full power and authority and now sits, enthroned on the right side of the Father – for US! WE are the ‘whosoever’. WE are the reason for the season! YOU are the reason for the season! (Ok, group HUG!) He came for YOU! THE best gift giving possible.
Even with all the self-interest, self-emersion and all the “I” focus today, this Christmas look into the eyes of those around you, consider THEM! What a great opening line to the gospel, said with heartfelt humility as you tenderly lean forward “Did you know YOU are the reason for the season…” Then tell them about Jesus and why He came, use their name (read their name badge if they have one) “Bob, He came for YOU!”
“The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the One and Only, Who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” – John 1:14
Blessed Christmas to you and yours,
In Him, DeDe & Mark (“Let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love & deeds.” – Hebrews 10:24)
Christmas. Just the word alone brings a soft glow to the soul. A warm crackling fire, hot chocolate and watching Jimmy Stewart as George Bailey yelling “Mary!” as he runs through the old drafty house. Peace.
Isaiah prophesied centuries before Luke penned his gospel saying: “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, and the government will be on His shoulders. He will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6) Fast forward to Luke 2:14, with the singing telegram to the shepherds: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” Peace had come to earth.
Biblical peace (in the Greek) is ‘to set at one again,’ – the picture is something that has once been erected has toppled over. Chaos, strife, irritation, unrest even war are the results. Once it is set back, PEACE is the result; all is in its rightful place. Remember Adam and Eve sinning in the garden? (Thanks, guys!) The original design, ‘God and man’ had been ‘toppled over.’ Gone were the daily walks together in the garden. Jesus came, setting things back in the right place, God and man in right relationship. “The Word became flesh (Jesus) and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the One and Only, Who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14 (emphasis mine) It may not be the Garden, but God again walking with us. Immanuel, oh the ‘with us’ of God! Jesus, peace on earth, the Prince of Peace. Peace is a Person. One of my favorite Christmas carols, “Hark the herald angels sing “Glory to the newborn King! Peace on earth and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled.” After 400 years, the angels break the silence with the spectacular news. Such theology dripping from this song: Jesus, Peace, God back on earth, setting things right again. God and sinners reconciled. As a bookkeeping clerk, I fully understand ‘reconciled’, the number zero could not be a more beautiful number, through Jesus I have ‘0’ debt! ZERO!
Peace is not only a Person but a position. “But now in Christ Jesus, you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace …for through Him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.” (Ephesians 2:13-14) We are now back where we were originally designed to be, right-standing relationship with God, given full access and ability to come into His presence. Paul declares this point, “Since we have been justified through faith we have PEACE with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:1) Peace is a God thing. Man cannot create true peace in his own soul, it is not part of the package deal, in the sense; it does not come attached to intelligence or fame and wealth. It is the result of Jesus’ presence, Jesus’ Lordship, and Jesus being walked & lived. Peace is a position.
Because of our sinful nature and our perpetual continuing to do so, John strongly declares “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9) This is written to the Jesus follower, we mess up, but as we confess, we are saying the same thing about our situation that God does. We are now in full agreement; we realign with what God says. To stop doing something we have to start doing something else. I don’t stop standing until I START walking. In this process, we are taking what was ‘toppled over’ returning to the original design and bringing Jesus back to His rightful peaceful place. We mess up, we get cleaned up. Peace restored. Peace is a process.
The increase of peace accompanies the increase of Christ’s governing power over our lives. Colossians 3:15 “Let the peace of Christ RULE in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.” If I want peace in my heart, I allow Jesus to RULE in my heart. He is King, I bow to Him as King, giving Him the rightful place on the throne of my life. A continual challenge indeed! We will know peace to the degree that we bow to Jesus. It is NOT about peaceful circumstances, it is obedience, His voice over our own, God doesn’t come to take sides, He comes to TAKE OVER. Peace is a posture, a bowed, get OFF the throne, posture. (Head bowed)
This Christmas may we pause and consider wholeheartedly, the Person, position, process, and posture of peace. Yes, Peace had indeed come to earth, Prince of Peace.
In Him, DeDe (“Let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love & good deeds.” – Hebrews 10:24)
Continuing our ‘Names of God’ study, we look at Immanuel. This time of year, we sing with a resounding ‘O come, O come Immanuel…” and it is written in beautiful font lettering across our Christmas cards. Immanuel*, meaning ‘God with us.’ Many who attempt to say God is uninterested and doesn’t turn His divine head our way does not understand Immanuel. Whether it is walking in the Garden in the cool of the day (Gen. 3:8) the pillar of fire by night (Ex. 13:22) or sandaled feet in Galilee (Matt. 4:18) or gloriously residing within us (1 Cor. 3:16) The God who dwells with us, among us and in us – God is Immanuel.
Immanuel is first mentioned in Isaiah (chapter 7) within a strong warning to King Ahaz to get his act together in the midst of political uprising and trust that God is with them – but the guy chose poorly. Isaiah prophecies: “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son and will be called Immanuel.” (v14) As we know, God’s people were quite fickle in their love, trust, and obedience, causing them to do what was right AND evil in God’s eyes, they STILL didn’t fully comprehend God’s presence. Fast forward to the New Testament, tucked in the story of the birth of Jesus – Matthew chapter 1. Joseph is about to take Mary as his wife, (according to cultural tradition, the engagement was a done-deal). BUT, she is pregnant (Hm…) he, a good man plans to dissolve the marriage quietly as to not disgrace her. Queue angelic messenger: Joseph is told to take Mary as his wife, the baby she carries is of the Holy Spirit, she will have a Son, and His name will be Jesus because He will save His people from their sins. Matthew gives narrative: “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son and they will call him Immanuel – which means, “God with us.” (vv 22-23)
God was and is with His people throughout history, but sending His Son, slipping Him into human flesh, all He was, all He did, could not be more unmistakably-striking evidence of God’s presence. A sign indeed! God keeps His promises. The All-Powerful, All-Sufficient, Sovereign Creator of the universe does not NEED to be with us – He wants to! This holiday season, as you consider Immanuel, step up, lean in, look to the far left, back to the beginning and then follow the timeline all the way to where YOU now stand and then continue to the right, following the thread into eternity as declared from the heavenly throne, Jesus reveals to John, “the dwelling place of God is with man.” (Revelation 21:3) So beautiful, so comforting – Immanuel.
In Him DeDe, (“Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love & good deeds.” – Hebrews 10:24)
*Why do we often see two spellings for Immanuel? The different spellings ultimately are because of different vowels used in Hebrew (O.T. ‘Immanuel’) and Greek (N.T. ‘Emmanuel’) yet they are indeed the same God presence, just two different languages.