December 4, 2022 (The first day of the second week of Advent 2022)
TODAY’S SCRIPTURE REFERENCE:
“And the Word became flesh and made His tabernacle one with us so that we might behold the glory of God as one begotten as only could be by the Father of all which is full of grace and truth.” (John 1.14 YLT)
“Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call Him Immanuel.” (Isaiah 7.14)
The God who dwells within us makes us His people!
The God who dwells within us reveals Himself in Word and Action!
As we take this time in our Advent season to grasp the truth, grace and beauty of Immanuel: the God with us and within us, let us remember all of that was, is and will always be revealed in perfection by the One called the Christ of God, Jesus of Nazareth born in Bethlehem- the city of a great king, to be called the King of kings, Lord of lords, mighty God, everlasting Father, Wonderful Counsel, Prince of Peace upon whose shoulders is borne the governance of the world. I offered that introduction to last Friday’s reflection and bring it into today’s as the beginning of a new week of reflections on the purpose of Immanuel in our Christian faith living. As I listened yesterday to a local Christian radio announcer declare that a colleague was “prophetic” in declaring there will be snow on Christmas Day, I had to stop mentally to consider what had just been said. In such matters, I tend to be more literal than figurative and a purist rather than a generalist. I wonder if more of our lives as mighty ones of God, as we translate our words into actions, shouldn’t be more thoughtfully generated as intentional over casual. I challenge myself, and any who will follow with me in these reflections, to consider well the Word which God has given to us and how we shall represent it in the world as those who abide in His Kingdom. For example, following up on the “prophetic” declaration mentioned above, is the announcement concerning “there will be snow on Christmas Day” truly prophetic? I mean bythat, something that is prophetic is that which speaks to God’s truth for His people as revealed in God’s speaking truth to God’s people. Throughout Scripture, we read of false prophets. They were called false prophets because they claimed the words they were speaking to the people were from God when in fact they were spoken with “words which mention God” for their own purpose. In other words, they were words of an artificial faith contrived to illicit responses for the spokesperson’s own agenda, design and benefit. They have so much less to do with God’s will and God’s desire for God’s people. Now it may well have been that the radio colleague from that station heard God declare there will be “snow for Christmas” but what then would the purpose be? Was God affirming what has become a traditional scene for the way the Northern Hemisphere has determined Christmas is to be celebrated? What might I be talking about? Yes, when December 25, 2022, arrives in the Southern Hemisphere, there probably will be no snow for Christmas. That doesn’t mean it can’t happen because God can do anything as the author of all creative power and purposes. But, most generally speaking, as Christmas lands in the middle of what would be summer-like weather for us for those south of the equator, snow would not be the norm. That would be similar to what it was for San Diego, California, when I was born at the end of January over sixty years ago. And it may well have been like that when Jesus was born in Bethlehem on what was more likely the season of Passover and lambing around the turn of the millennium over two thousand years ago. If you were to follow the latitude which crosses Bethlehem you would also find Waco, Texas; the middle of Baja California, Mexico; Cape Sato, Japan; and Punjab, India to name a few places. At the end of March and the beginning of April around the world, it is unlikely that snow would be falling in those places including Bethlehem. But, of course, we don’t celebrate the birth of Jesus at Passover. We follow the declaration of Pope Julius and Emperor Constantine who in 336 A.D. declared that December 25th was the birthdate of Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ of God. It was not, however, a prophetic declaration but one which satisfied the needs of transforming culture to reflect a more “Christian” view of life and living. The Christmas type of celebration which is more common today was not known until nearly 700 years ago in Europe. Now I know that is more information than you probably wanted to know but it serves a purpose in today’s Advent reflection on a “prophetic” understanding of Immanuel.
Among the many prophecies revealed by God to Isaiah, the one mentioned above from chapter 7, verse 14, starts the advent ball rolling. The very heart and soul of this prophecy concerns the restoration of Israel as God’s people not from God’s perspective but from the people’s perspective. Until “we” confess and profess who we are and whose we are, “we” are not that in this world. We will always be who we are as we decide to be in God’s eyes as well as who God intended for us to be in His eyes. He sees us perfectly from beginning to end. I have no doubt that “double-vision” of us brings both sadness and gladness. Remember when in the story of Noah, God “repented” of ever having created humanity? It saddened Him that “we” could so adopt the ways in which the world had become more a reflection of insurrection against godly living that an advocation of godly living. Those who embraced sin which had infected the hearts and minds of people who dwelt on earth that they figuratively, and thus spiritually, lived in darkness. Isaiah received a prophecy of a similar time when he declared under God’s influence, “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.” (Isaiah 9.2) God, as we know from the story of Noah and the Flood, promised to never destroy humanity again because of the greatness of their “sin-fection” by a universal flood. Setting the sign of the “rainbow” in the sky was a reminder to the world that God was against sin but in grace remained firm in His promise to be a God for those who would be God’s people. It, the rainbow, was not a “get out of hell” free card for those who wish to fall back into the darkness of sin and advocate their view of what God’s will is for their lives and others. But, it did demonstrate that God knew full well that unless there is a change of heart, mind and soul, simply eliminating people from the face of the earth does not resolve the problem of sin. There had to be and has to be an internal transformation for an external confirmation and demonstration. We are the people of God because of the spirit that thrives within us and thus how we strive to live by that spirit. Our lives are prophetic not because we reveal what our will is for the world but because we live out God’s will in the world. And it is the same for this and each of our Advent seasons of preparation.
Consider today that the purpose of our Christmas celebration is an affirmation that God’s Son, our Savior, the Christ of God, was born in Bethlehem according to God’s will revealed in the prophecy recorded in Scripture. Scripture is “God’s holy Word, inspired for the purpose,” as Paul reminded Timothy, “of our being taught, rebuked, corrected and trained in [the ways of] righteousness.” (2 Timothy 3.16) We are not looking forward to “Jesus being born” but living out the remembrance of lives lived in righteousness as purposed by the birth of Jesus over 2000 years ago. Our most fitting remembrance may be in holding fast to the living out of that truth and its meaning for our lives throughout the year and years we have been given. As mighty ones of God, Christmas is a season of faith as we prepare not for simple reminders of His “first coming” and that “first Advent” but for His “second coming” and this “second advent” in which we live. What is that “second Advent”? It is nothing less than the “age of the Church” which exists from the day of the confirmation of the disciples’ mission and purpose on the day of Jesus’ ascension into Heaven until He, in fact, returns again in “spirit and in truth.” That confirmation has been called, and remains so to this day, “The Great Commission.” Its profound mission statement empowers all believers who have declared their purpose in this world has been reconciled, redeemed and transformed from personal self-serving agendas into powerful, worshipful and transformative other-serving works. The Word not only becomes flesh but dwells in the very midst of the communities in which we live and serve for the glory of God in authentic love even to the point of laying down our lives for the sake of another that they might live in this world as His people as they will live in the world yet to come because they are His people. This is the truth of God’s Word. I believe it out to be the truth of our “word” as well as the incarnation of the celebration of Christ’s birth, Immanuel. His birth is prophetically “our rebirth” as a people who live to honor God, to trust Him in all things and to make known before all the world what is the only truth that can truly set others free to again be God’s people who will dwell in His House forever. That, my friends, is the best Christmas, the time of celebrating the birth of Christ, gift we can give.
Father, You have so blessed us with many gifts, talents, abilities and opportunities to declare Your truth for Your people. We pause now in honest reflection to consider Your Word and all the we may do with it to make Your Presence know with us and within us before, with and in the world in which we live. May Your will be done as perfectly intended as possible to honor You in the name of Jesus who is the true Christ of all. AMEN.