‘Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name “Immanuel”‘ (Matt 1:23)
Familiarity can so quickly lead to the loss of awe. I think this is especially true with the Christmas message. For example, hearing the word Immanuel should send shudders of joy and excitement surging through our bones! Why? Let me try to explain:
Immanuel, as many of us will know, means God with us. This speaks of the doctrine (idea) of the incarnation, of God becoming flesh (John 1:14). What does that mean? Let me try to answer that question as simply as I can. Immanuel – God becoming flesh – essentially means that Jesus, the everlasting Word (John 1:1), the one through whom all of creation was created (Col 1:16) and the one who has been sustaining the whole of the universe from the very beginning (Col 1:17), chose to take on human form and become like those he had created. He didn’t take off his divinity and and put on humanity. Instead, we have this wonderful mystery of Christ being 100% God and 100% human. This is stunning, breathtaking, and we will never ever fully comprehend this glorious truth!
However, there is more. When Jesus was born in a small, out of the way place, he was demonstrating to all people everywhere, including you and me, that he willingly chose to step in and intervene. He took the first move. In fact, he took the first, second, third – and even final – move to rescue and redeem us! No one will ever be able to accuse Jesus of not caring, or of being disinterested. In the manger we see a God who went to extreme and extravagant lengths to intervene in our sin-marred world and to establish a rescue plan that would eventually lead this little baby to a brutal and barbaric cross. David Mathis put it like this:
“The incarnation is not only the way in which Jesus became Immanuel–God with us–but it’s an eternal testimony that he and his Father are unswervingly for us”.
However, there is even more. The way in which Jesus became Immanuel, namely as a babe in the back of beyond, shows something of the culture of this new kingdom he was inaugurating. His ways are not the ways of this world. The apostle Paul says,
‘but God chose the foolish things of the world, that he might put to shame them that are wise; and God chose the weak things of the world that he might put to shame the things that are strong’ (1 Cor 1:27, ASV).
God loves to use the unimpressive things of this world, like me (and, most likely, you), to display that his kingdom operates in a completely different way! As a church this Christmas, as we consider the utter wonder and amazement of Immanuel, let us also stir our hearts with the reminder that however ordinary and unimpressive we might feel, God loves to use people like us to turn the world’s agenda upside down and to show that true life and salvation is not achieved through the wisdom and might of men, but only through the foolish message of the death and resurrection of Jesus (1 Cor 1:18).
Wishing you a very happy Christmas.