"The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth." John 1:14

Monday, December 9, 2013

God With Us

There are many things we take for granted in the United States. We can go to a market and choose from an abundance of foods and products. The biggest challenge for most Americans at Christmas is finding a gift another person can use, not because of limited products rather, because most people already have far more stuff than they need.

Spiritually, those of us in the church take a lot for granted as well. Under the Old Testament covenants, a lot was conditional (e.g.,God's covenant with Israel to stay in the Land). God was, more often than not, hidden behind a thick veil, interceded with only by the Levitical priests under specific conditions at preordained times of the year. This was what people were used to. Certainly they could pray to God, but he was, it was assumed, distant.

The Gospel of Matthew begins with a genealogy, outlining the 14 generations between Abraham and David, the 14 generations between David and the Exile, and the 14 generations between the Exile and the birth of Christ. Matthew seems to be pointing to the divine hand that set the stage for the unlikely story that follows:

18 This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about[a]: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet[b] did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.
20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus,[c] because he will save his people from their sins.”
22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”[d] (which means “God with us”).
Matthew 1:18-23

It is the last phrase we are likely to take for granted these days: "God with us." No longer hidden by a mist at the top of a mountain or behind a veil, thick and tall, in the holiest part of a tabernacle, God came near in the form of an infant, born to unlikely teenagers under scandalous circumstances, and was laid in a filthy stable. You have heard it so many times that its impact probably escapes you.

Think of it this way: Where would you be if this now "old news" event had not taken place? What if God had chosen (he had every right) to remain remote and distant, relationship unobtainable for all but a very few  Spirit filled  patriarchs, prophets and, kings? Where would you be if God had not come near in the babe in the stable?

Once in a while, I step from a steamy shower and grab a freshly laundered towel and I say, "Thank you God, for this blessing." I am not entitled to comforts or blessings or a relationship with the King of the Universe. But these blessings are mine. Some will pass away, but one blessing will remain forever:  God with us.