Immanuel: God With Us
“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favour rests.”
What a rush. Shopping, presents, then there’s the tree, the decorations, the cards to write, the pudding to make, the turkey to cook & then there’s...
We all know the feeling - this mid-winter festival causes so much stress, apparently Christmas is the prime time for family friction. But if the Christmas cards are to be believed, this is meant to be the season of peace & goodwill - the celebration of the birth of the Prince of Peace!
We must ask - was it meant to be like this? It was intended to be something rather different. The Gospel writers showed little interest in the exact date of Jesus’ birth. It was not until the 3rd Century that the matter was debated, various dates being championed such as 15 January, 10 June and 2 February.
No, what the Bible writers were interested in, was the meaning of Jesus’ birth. Much had been prophesied centuries before; the Virgin birth prophesied by Isaiah, the birth at Bethlehem prophesied by Micah, and thatGod Himself, Immanuel, would come to us - Isaiah. Just as the rush and business of our festival is not envisaged in the Bible, neither is much of the romance and sentimentality that surrounds it.
The Gospel writers are concerned with the reality and the implications of Christ’s coming.
And the facts are not always pleasant. The Roman census took no account of Mary’s advanced pregnancy, she had to travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem, presumably on foot but just possibly by donkey, a distance of about 100 miles. Then Jesus’ birth led to the massacre of all the children under 2 in Bethlehem because of King Herod’s famous paranoia about being deposed, so Jesus’ family became refugees in Egypt. Despite all this, peace was announced to God’s people by the angels, as they appeared to the despised shepherds. And Jesus is the Prince of Peace to those who come to Him for forgiveness and new life. He has come to bring human beings peace with each other as they find their peace with God.
Christmas is indeed about Immanuel, “God with us”, in our homes, in our villages, in our churches, but at a great cost. We must remember that one of the Magi’s gifts was myrrh - the stuff of burial! Also that the aged prophet Simeon warned Mary that “a sword will pierce your own heart”. Jesus’ purpose in coming, was to die as a sacrifice for each of us.
As we open wide our churches to welcome all who come to the Carol Services and Christmas celebrations and as we quite rightly wish each other a peaceful and joyful Christmas, let us remember what it cost the Lord Jesus to come to this earth to save us. Immanuel - God with us - at so great a cost but oh! in such great love.
May you all have a very blessed and peaceful Christmas.