6. EMMANUEL, GOD WITH US
THIS SERIES: DREAMING OF THE PERFECT CHRISTMAS?
1 DREAMING OF THE PERFECT CHRISTMAS?
2. TRADITIONS CAN BE TOXIC
3. WHAT'S WRONG WITH PERFECT?
4. LOOK FOR GIFTS OF JOY
5. THE POWER OF BLESSING
6. EMMANUEL, GOD WITH US
The message of Christmas is not that we climb up to God but that He comes down to us and meets us where we are.
God’s heart in creating man was that He would live amongst people and have fellowship with them. Alone amongst creation, we were made in His image. We read in Genesis that ‘He walked with Adam in the cool of the day.’ What a picture of intimacy! The fulfilment of that desire is one of the key themes of the Bible: after the Fall when the human-divine relationship was dislocated, the Lord sought out, first of all, individuals as friends, and then the nation of Israel as His dwelling place [Leviticus 26:11].
The Ark of the Covenant was the place where the Presence of God rested. When it was carried by specially appointed priests, before the people, at the Lord’s instigation, great victories were won. When at rest, the Ark was laid in the Holy of Holies, where only the High Priest could enter, and that only once a year. The Presence of God was with Israel, but generally hidden from the eyes of ordinary people.
For David it wasn’t enough, he yearned for the Presence, knowing instinctively he was created for intimate relationship. He was a man ahead of his time, a prophet who brought the things of the future into his present. David set up a tabernacle where there was no Holy of Holies, everyone had access to the Ark of the Presence, and the result was a period of unparalleled praise and worship. It was a prophetic demonstration of a time coming when the Presence of God would be accessible to all.
THE GOOD NEWS OF CHRISTMAS
This is the good news of Christmas: Emmanuel, which means ‘God with us’, has come amongst us and is still with us today, through His Holy Spirit.
The message of Christmas is not that we climb up to God but that He comes down to us and meets us where we are. It is not dependent on sacred places, special services, forms or rituals, however much we might enjoy them; and there is no specially selected ‘priestly caste’ in this story.
The circumstances of Jesus’ birth cry out to us that God comes to the ordinary in order to restore His original purpose. It’s not a tale of man’s efforts to claw his way up to an inaccessible God, but rather the story of the desire of Almighty God to come and manifest His presence and glory in the commonplace.
Christmas celebrates the Lord's fulfilment of the promise of old:
"My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest."
Let's make sure we don't get so busy, or so focused on the trappings, that we miss the whole point!
The next blog post from Bread for the Journey will be on 14th January.
Until then, may each one of you have a wonderful Christmas, filled with the blessing and presence of Emmanuel.
[Photo credits: Igor Rodrigues (Ark); James Coleman (nativity) @ Unsplash, with thanks]
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Da Kraplak (type writer);
Merakist (social media)
@ Unsplash, with thanks]
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