November 25, 2022
TODAY’S SCRIPTURE REFERENCE:
“This is what the Lord says to me with His strong hand upon me as a warning to not follow the way of this people. ‘Devise your strategy, but it will be thwarted; propose your plan, but it will not stand: Immanuel, God is amidst us.‘” (Isaiah 8.11, 10)
I can think of no better way to bear witness to our transformation from “thanks giving” to “thanks living” than enter into the season of Advent prepared as God’s people bent on worship and praise, service and proclamation, prophecy and fulfillment. Too long now have we allowed the desire to be in the world with a fear of being outside of the world to influence the three conditions of preparedness mentioned above. As mighty ones of God, believers in Christ, Jesus of Nazareth, born of spirit and of flesh, the mortal immortal, we ought to see the benefit of being in the world and not of it instead of the failure of being in the Kingdom of God while dwelling in the kingdom of humanity. In truth, these mighty ones of God have always been intended to be the examples and mentors of dwelling in the kingdom of humanity as understood by the God who first created us and then redeemed us from our sin even before we understood that salvation which comes perfectly in power in Jesus the Christ. The believers, the true Church which is the bride of the Lamb of God, the Son of the Most High, are the authentic humans. All else are pretenders. However, it would seem that the Church is more of the pretender of faith in the contending against the enemy which stands opposed to God and His people. In our pretending to be faithful to those who are said to be faithful, we have allowed the demonstration of frailty in the fealty we allow to the Great Pretender to be the image projected into the world. In other words, we look more like the world than the world looks like the Kingdom. No where does this seem more evident than in our Advent and Christmas celebration. It is in this spirit of awareness that I propose the following season of writings as Advent meditations.
Advent begins this Sunday, November 27, and continues on to Christmas Eve, December 24. It, as always, includes four Sunday celebrations which lead our thoughts for the following week which it rightfully begins with a theme of biblical witness. The destination is, of course, Christmas Day on which we center our celebration on the birth of the Christ as a child of man and the birth of Jesus as the Son of God. It is important for us to remember and hold fast to these two posits of identity in our faith testimony. In Christ, we find the soul of humanity. In Jesus, we find the heart of God. In Christ Jesus or Jesus Christ, we find IMMANUEL: God in the midst of us. And it is on this truth and identity that I will focus my reflections on God’s Word as the means of proposing a better preparation not only for this season but for the one which follows it- Epiphany. It is important for me to reflect on this theme as I believe scholars and theologians in their “great proposal of God with us” have fostered within the Church a less than proficient declaration of its truth as expressed in the theology of the birth of Christ as Jesus of Nazareth. Even my own past reflections, both recent and distant, on this “understanding” show the less than effective proposal of what it really means for the Christ of God to also be the Son of Man. On that, I now repent. While I will elaborate on this more fully in the days and weeks to come, and how it most certainly may impact of our identity as servants of God, the priesthood of all believers, and followers of Christ Jesus, let me summarize the gist of these reflections in the following way:
Immanuel, God with us or God in the midst of us,
did not abdicate the seat at the right hand of God
in order to come to dwell on earth with us or in the midst of us.
Rather, it is now my consideration, under the inspiration
of the Holy Spirit, that Immanuel as the Babe of Bethlehem,
the Boy of Nazareth and the Man of Israel, is the righteous
demonstration of Us with God and/or Us in the midst of God.
Yes, it is now my contention and empowered understanding that Christ came into the world to show us, lead us, guide us, demonstrate for us, teach us, disciple us and call us into the right understanding of ourselves as bearers of the presence of God. The Apostle Paul described it in this way: But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. (2 Corinthians 4.7-9) I have always affirmed that from our conception, the Spirit of God which breathes life into lifelessness as in Adam from clay to human and Eve from sleep into life dwells in us and not merely “upon us.” Even in the fall of Adam and Eve from bliss of blessing in the Garden of Eden into the burden of living in the world outside the Garden, the Spirit of God, was not taken from us lest we would be as dead people. As “dead” people, we would be without hope and without promise. This was never the case, although our burden of sinning against God and aligning “ourselves” with the Great Pretender, Satan the fallen Lucifer, albeit temporarily so and unfortunately “long enough” has sufficiently worked to convince us otherwise. Jesus as the Christ of God and Christ as the Man of God, the true Immanuel, makes it possible to see ourselves as we have always been intended to be- God’s children, the people of His Hand (created in His image) and the sheep of His pasture (the redeemed from the land of the lost or those dead toward God). Christ Jesus did not “set aside” nor “surrender Heaven for earth, spirit for flesh” but instead became “He, who being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to His own advantage; rather, He made Himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2.6-8)
What is the consequence of this proposal? I would confess and profess that the greatest consequence for each of us as we consider this true “Immanuel” is the “gift of ourselves back to us” with all its power, opportunity and duty which glorifies God in the highest and on earth brings “peace, goodwill and authentic living.” I look forward to sharing more with you on this “reflection” of Immanuel as we prepare together for the coming of King, the broadcasting of the good news that the King has come and the impetus of living for the return of the King in kingdom, power and the glory forever.
God who reveals all truth to us and empowers its freeing command to allow our transformation from death to life, dark to light and despair to hope, we thankfully live now in pursuit of Your Word in us and with us. Let this truth have its way with us in Jesus’ name. AMEN.