â€œThough it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe it has done me good, and will do me good; and I say, God bless it!â€ Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol
As I reflect on another Christmas I realize how much faster the season goes as you get older. As a kid the days are eternity. You find different methods to keep your sanity while you slowly count down the days one by one. You rip paper rings or cross off boxes on a grid. As an adult, you stare at a daunting checklist of actions all to be done before you are even remotely prepared for Christmas. Nobody wants to be the guy who finally gets his lights and tree up on Christmas Eve to enjoy them for all of a handful of hours.
Regardless of how much time we get each year to slow down and enjoy what Christmas is about, we each have our core traditions and celebrations. Part of that for me is a reminder of the concept the prophet Isaiah first introduced us to of Immanuel, or God with us. Thatâ€™s the shocking, unexpected story we reflect on each year. God came to us. And even though He didnâ€™t look as we might imagine, this little baby cleared up all our misconceptions and questions about what God is really like. As the author of Hebrews tells us, â€œThe Son radiates Godâ€™s own glory and expresses the very character of God, and he sustains everything by the mighty power of his command.â€ Hebrews 1:3 (NLT). Jesus had God-radiation oozing off of Him. You couldnâ€™t see Him or come in contact with Him without experiencing the Divine. Everything else must now be measured by Him. What an incredible human life!
Itâ€™s easy to think of this story, what we today call the Incarnation, as Godâ€™s rescue mission for us. Christians use this phrase often to describe Christmas. But there are a number of problems with it. Is this Godâ€™s plan B? Did He screw something up? Did we screw something up? Is He angry about the inconvenience this caused? Was He frustrated He had to leave Heaven to join us? Did God reluctantly agree to send His Son to earth?
Iâ€™m encouraged to reflect on, and remind you today, that Christmas was always a part of Godâ€™s bigger plan. It turned into a rescue mission only after the fall, but that had to do with the cross rather than the manger. Jesus wasnâ€™t born to rescue you, He died to rescue you. He was born to be with you. (click here to tweet this)
God always intended for us to experience His Immanuel presence with us. As Paul writes, â€œEven before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes.â€ Ephesians 1:4 (NLT). Before He made us, He planned on us experiencing life â€œin Christ.â€ Thatâ€™s been the bigger design all along. Your life can be inexplicably intertwined with that of God Himself.
How amazing then to see this plan carried out through this little child born in the most unexpected of ways. Even more so when this person, still radiating the glory and character of God, shows us a shockingly nonviolent, enemy-loving, self-sacrificial act of profound love on the cross.
God is with us, and invites us to be with Him in Christ. This is the reminder each Christmas, but this story doesnâ€™t belong in December. This is the story which frames all other stories all year long. Everything is different now that the fullness of God has come to us.