Immanuel, God with us

I have always loved the season of Advent. It is a time of reflection, of waiting and wanting Christmas to arrive. Over the last few years I have taking time during Advent to reflect on the true meaning of Christmas. For many years I did not really like this time of year, but through these times of reflection, I have realised that what I didn’t like was how commercialised Christmas has become, so much excess, the focus being on wanting more and more and often ignoring those with a real need for a warm home, company, or maybe even a gift. Also, as a believer, it seemed to me that more and more we have forgotten the central focus of this season: celebrating the birth of Jesus.

What is Advent?

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The term “advent” comes from the Latin adventus which means “come”. This reminds us of one of the most ancient prayers in Aramaic, the language of Jesus: Maranatha. This phrase is translated as “Come, Lord Jesus” in Revelation 22:20 and as “Oh Lord, come!” in 1 Corinthians 16:22. So this season of Advent, the four weeks leading up to Christmas, should be a time of waiting, of desire and expectancy, inviting Christ to come into our lives once more.

The coming of Jesus as a baby was announced long before by the prophets, as we read in Isaiah chapter 7:

Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.

Isaiah 7:14

Immanuel, which means God with us. God already came to us through the birth of Jesus as a man. God with us in our day to day lives. He is not far from us. He is a God who is close, who is concerned about us; he is interested in our lives, in what we think, what we feel and what we go through. He is by our side through our joys and our trials.

The Incarnation. He draws near to us

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The birth of Jesus formed part of God’s great plan. He came as a baby. Defenceless, dependent, small. This is one of the great mysteries of Christianity. The Annunciation to Mary and the Incarnation, the Word that became flesh. The God of the Universe who came to Earth as a baby to live as a man, and yet He was, and is, God.

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Perhaps we have heard this story so many times that it seems rather like a fairy tale. But let’s stop for a moment and think about it as a historical fact: he was not only conceived by the Holy Spirit in Mary’s womb, but he spent nine months there, being formed as a human being. What must that pregnancy have been like for Mary? And then, the birth took place in an uncomfortable, unwelcoming and dirty place, a stable. No sterilised clinics or doctors. And yet it was a birth celebrated by angels. From the very first, He began to turn the world upside down. Some wondered. Others wanted to kill him, seeing him as a threat.

Why did Jesus come to Earth as a man?

A passage from the Old Testament helps us to understand this:

For unto us a Child is born,

Unto us a Son is given;

And the government will be upon His shoulder.

And His name will be called

Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God,

Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Of the increase of His government and peace

There will be no end,

Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom,

To order it and establish it with judgment and justice

From that time forward, even forever.

The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.

Isaiah 9:6-7 (NKJV)

This passage speaks to us about government, authority, justice and judgment. It talks about a peace that never ends. This really is good news! It is talking about the kingdom of God and Jesus came to establish that kingdom on Earth.

He came to bring redemption

One of the main reasons why Jesus came to Earth was to bring reconciliation between God and man. He came to restore what had been broken and lost in the Garden of Eden. God’s desire has always been to have an intimate relationship with each of us. A relationship of love, a Father with his children.

So He came to forgive our sins and it required giving Himself as a sacrifice on the cross. The cross is central to our faith. Without the cross, without the resurrection, there is no Christianity. We all start there and we often go back there, but our faith is much more than salvation.

The desire of God is that we should become more and more like Jesus. That our desires, our thoughts and consequently our behaviour, would be Christlike. That is discipleship: imitating Christ, our Teacher. And it is a journey that takes a lifetime.

He wants us to live in such a way that we are announcing Christ every day and bringing His kingdom to Earth. He wants everyone to know Him and He gives His children the responsibility of making Him known.

Now He comes as King

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At Christmas, we tend to focus on Jesus as a baby. He came as a baby, it’s a historical fact. It happened at a specific moment in history and it will never happen again. As Christians, we believe He is alive, He rose from the dead and lives forevermore. But what is Jesus like now?

He is majestic, he is holy. Lord of lords. He is powerful, omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient. There is no one like him.

The passage in Revelation 19 describes Jesus at His Second Coming. Personally, I think this Jesus is much closer to what He is like now than the image of baby Jesus in the manger.

Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself. He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God.

And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses.

Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written:

KING OF KINGS AND

LORD OF LORDS.

Revelation 19:11-16

How do we respond when we see Him as He is?

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This passage produces a sense of wonder, reverence, fear of God. It leads me to bow low before Him, to empty myself of me and to focus on Him and what He desires.

But at the same time I am confident that I can draw near because I know Him, I know He loves me, He receives me and he forgives me. One thing is clear from this passage: he comes as King, as Lord. And when someone important comes, we make room for him. We clear a path. We don’t block his entry, we get out of the way so he can come and do what he desires to do.

Make room for Jesus

My question for you and for me this Christmas, is the following:

Are we making room for Jesus?

What place does he have in your life? In your heart?

How much time do you give him each day?

It’s time to see him as he is and not as he is often portrayed. He no longer comes as a baby in a manger. That’s history. Real history that actually happened but it belongs to the past. In the Kairos of God, now, in 2022, how does Jesus want to come to us?

He comes as King and He requires holiness

I believe he wants to come to our lives as King and as Lord. Sometimes we can be too familiar with him. There are ways to draw near. It’s no longer the sacrifices and the offerings of the Old Testament, we live under grace. However, there are certain things that he requires. Psalm 24 reminds us that only those who are pure in heart and with clean hands will see God. This talks about holiness.

As we draw near to the end of the year, it’s a good opportunity to take stock and examine our hearts. Maybe we have been believers for years, or perhaps this is all new to us. But we can all ask him, and allow him, to examine our hearts, knowing that the heart is deceitful above all things.

Search me, oh God, and know my heart. Try me and know my thoughts and see if there is any evil way in me, and guide me on the path to eternal life.

Psalm 139:23-24

Let’s prepare our hearts for His visitation

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I believe God wants to visit Spain and Europe in a way he has never done before. It will be wonderful but also awe-inspiring. We need to be prepared for his visitation as individuals and as the Church. We have not been this way before and if we desire God to work wonders amongst us, we need to sanctify ourselves. Do we desire the presence of God? Do we want to follow his presence? Do we want to sanctify ourselves to pursue him?

In the Old Testament the ark represented the presence of God. There’s a story about someone who reached out to touch the ark and died (2 Samuel 6). The presence of God is attractive but it is also a fearsome thing.

Sometimes I think that if God would just come down and do more amazing miracles, that everyone would believe in Him. But not everyone is open to the supernatural and not everyone wants his presence. It was the same when Jesus lived on the Earth. He worked miracles and they conspired to kill Him.

He has promised revival. Is the body of Christ, the Church, ready for it? Am I ready for it? Revival can be messy, disorganised, surprising, strange. Meetings that don’t end on time, or simply don’t end. The presence of God breaking out in the supermarket. Miracles happening in schools. And it might offend us, because it won’t be what we expected. And we won’t be able to contain it. It will overflow the limits of what is reasonable. The stories of what God is doing will be so many we won’t be able to tell them all…

We don’t know what 2022 will be like. But we do know that God wants to come in a powerful way. Will we make room for him? To do what he wants to do and how he wants to do it? Even if it doesn’t look like anything we have seen before; even though things may not be done as I like them. Even if it offends my way of thinking and my perception of how things ought to be. Will we let Him interrupt our comfortable lives?

He does not conform to me.

He asks me to conform to Him, to become like Jesus.

He no longer comes as a baby; He comes as King and He wants to be Lord of every part of our lives.

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