The Reality of Immanuel

The Reality of Immanuel

"How many observe Christ's birthday! How few, His precepts!" —Benjamin Franklin

I have to be honest, I really do love the holiday called Christmas. Our church is a beehive of activity. Our home is a menagerie of laughter and friends and family. I love the food. I love the decorations. I love the way Christmas smells. And who can argue with a couple of cool presents under the tree with my name on it!? Not a bad way to observe Someone's birthday.

Yes, the holiday works for me… IF I stay mindful of the core precept behind its observance AND if I'm willing to put that precept into practice. In that sense, Christmas is really just another day. It’s one more special day to revel in the wonderful mystery of Emmanuel, God with us. The fact is, God is with us, and the command given to Joshua is the command to us as well:

"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go." —Joshua 1:9

So yeah, I’m looking forward to the holiday. It's another day to release my battles and my fears and my self-righteousness. It’s just another day to embrace the incredible love of God and celebrate the reality of His presence in my life. Yes, Emmanuel, “God is with us.” That truth makes every day a celebration!

Jesus, thank you for this holiday. I praise You for one more day to experience the promise of Your presence. Because You are in me, I trust You to be strong; I trust You to be my courage. Thank you that You are with me wherever I go. Amen

The Audacity of Christmas

by Mike Pohlman

So let no one boast in men. For all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future--all are yours, and you are Christ's, and Christ is God's. –1 Corinthians 3:21-23

This Christmas millions of children (and adults) will find under their Christmas tree a Wii or Xbox 360 or Playstation 3. When the wrapping paper is ripped and the contents revealed shouts of joy will fill the room. (I’m planning on this as our kids open their Wii!) Each of these game consoles will bring countless hours of pleasure to the players. But as amazing as these machines are, they in no way compare to the audacity of God’s gift given at Christmas.

Consider the staggering promise of the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 3:21. He says, “all things are yours” by virtue of being in Christ. And what does Paul include in “all things”? Things like the world, life, death, the present and the future. Breathtaking. How can this be?

Galatians 4:4-7 shows how the Christian comes to inherit “all things.”

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.

Christmas marks the “fullness of time” when God, in his sovereign freedom, “sent forth his Son.” The One who dispenses times and seasons determined that it was time to send forth the Son who had existed with the Father from eternity. Indeed, the second person of the Trinity “did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men” (Philippians 2:6-7). He was “born of a woman, born under the law.” Here we have the wonder of the Incarnation: God of very God assuming a human nature.

Why would the Son of God take on flesh and dwell among sinful mankind? Why would divinity take on humanity and “become obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:8)?

He did it to secure salvation. In other words, “to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons” (Galatians 4:5). Christ came into the world not only to free us from the tyranny of sin, death and the devil, but also to crown us with unimaginable glory.

It is true that at the Cross Christ “redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us” (Galatians 3:13). But we have not been saved only in this “negative” sense. We have been adopted into God’s family and given all the rights and privileges of legitimate heirs. Paul captures this beautifully in 2 Corinthians 2:8-9, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.” And the riches that are ours in Christ are far greater than anything merely monetary. These riches are in fact “all things” for “all are yours, and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s” (1 Corinthians 3:23). This is the audacity of Christmas and it is intended to redound “to the praise of [God’s] glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved” (Ephesians 1:6).

Intersecting Faith & Life: This Christmas I want to think and live as one adopted. One way to do this is to let every gift given to a loved one serve as a pointer to the Gospel. And when we consider how excited we are for the new Wii or Xbox or Playstation with its temporal pleasures, let us remember the eternal weight of glory that awaits the heirs of the King.

Further Reading

Disturbing Christmas, C.J. Mahaney

A Redemption Worthy of Our Worship, Peter Beck

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