God is Still With Us
“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).” (Matthew 1:23) Immanuel, God with us, that is what makes Christmas so special, the fact that God came down and became both fully God and man. It is so easy to look at the Christmas account and miss its significance because many of us are abundantly familiar with these events. But, many of us miss the fact that God is still with us. Jesus came to die for our sins, so we could live forever with him, he did not come to overthrow an earthly kingdom, but to set us free from the power of sin and death, taking all power from the enemy over the earth and over you. The enemy no longer has any power over you unless you let him. The beautiful thing is that when Jesus died, He did not stay dead but rose again and then ascended to the Father. But, that does not mean that God is no longer with us, because He sent the Holy Spirit to dwell in each and every person who puts their trust in Him. God is still with us and if you are a Christian He dwells within you and we can not miss the significance of this. I mean seriously, the One who speaks and nothing becomes everything that has ever been. He loves you and wants to be with you forever, that is incredible and is the true meaning of Christmas.
Son of the Most High
Let’s look at the Christmas story, I hope that you have been reading the Christmas accounts, as I have encouraged you to and it has given you a new desire to study every part of the Scriptures. The first thing we see in this Christmas account, is that God again sends Gabriel, he was sent this time to a virgin in Galillee, whose name was Mary and she was betrothed to Joseph, they were both descendants of David. Gabriel said to her, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” (Luke 1:28) Mary was greatly troubled and was trying to determine what type of greeting this was. Gabriel continued by saying, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” (Luke 1:30-33) I think that this passage is one of those passages, that we overlook or do not fully grasp its significance. Jesus is the Son of the Most High, the very son of God, who will reign forever and whose Kingdom will have no end. We so often focus on Him being the Messiah, that we miss the fact that He is also our King, Priest, and Intercessor. Not that it is bad for us to focus on Him being the Messiah, but when we do this exclusively, without studying the other parts of His roles, we miss so much beauty and truth. Many societies have come to distrust kings, priests, and intercessors because many think of the ways that sinful men have abused and taken advantage of people in these roles. But, each of these roles was set up by God, and our good and perfect God fulfilled what these roles were supposed to be through Jesus, doing what man could not do in these roles, because of our sinful and rebellious hearts.
But I am a Virgin
Mary was confused and said how will this be since I am a virgin? I think this is interesting for several reasons, first, Zechariah asked a similar question to the angel and was punished in accordance with what he said. Let’s quickly compare what they each said. Zechariah said “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.” (Luke 1:18) and Mary said, “How will this be since I am a virgin?”. Notice the obvious differences, Zechariah was looking for a sign/questioning the word of the Lord, whereas Mary was wondering how God’s words would be fulfilled and not questioning that it would come to pass. How their questions were phrased was different, but I do not believe that is why they received different responses, I think that it is likely Zechariah’s doubt and Mary’s faith, and the response of their hearts to the word of the Lord that caused the Lord to respond differently to each of them. When you look at the Christmas account, all throughout it, you see that this is God’s plan and He is the one who initiated and orchestrated each and every circumstance. Gabriel continued by telling Mary, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.” (Luke 1:35-37) Mary said, to let it be according to Gabriel’s words, then he departed from her. Mary, now aware of her relative Elizabeth’s pregnancy, went to visit her. The reason Mary did not know about Elizabeth’s pregnancy until now, was because Elizabeth had hidden herself after she conceived (Luke 1:24). Mary, now aware of her relative Elizabeth’s pregnancy, went to visit her. When Mary’s voice reached Elizabeth, John jumped inside of her. Immediately Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and cried out blessings and prophesy.
The Only Truly Spotless One
The Word of the Lord took place exactly how the angel told them. When Mary was in the last days of her pregnancy, a census took place, so they had to go to Bethlehem, the city of David, because that was where their family was from. See, unlike today when the government takes the census to see how many and where the people are, they would require you to return to your ancestral hometown to be counted for taxation purposes. In this, we see God was even using the kings of other nations to fulfill His plans. This is still true today, God uses government leaders to fulfill His plans, even if we do not see or understand it. So, when they were in Bethlehem for the census, it came time for Mary to give birth. Then, she gave birth and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, the same cloths that a baby lamb would be wrapped in, then He was laid in a manager. Foreshadowing what He was here to do, that He was the only truly spotless One, that would die for the sins of everyone.
Came for All
Then God yet again, sets in motion the next part of the account, by sending an angel of the Lord to tell the Shepherds of Jesus’ birth. It is interesting that God would tell the shepherds for several reasons, first, Shepherds were some of the lowest on the social ladder, second, I wonder if it was a nod to David, who may have kept sheep in the same fields or ones that were not far from it. The shepherds came and worshiped Him. Jesus came so they could live forever with Him and they did not need to bring gifts other than their worship. The next people who God notifies of Jesus’ birth are the wise men, it is unclear whether the celestial body appeared before or after the shepherds were told of Jesus’ birth. We know several things about the wise men, first, we know that they are most likely extremely wealthy, but were not kings, instead they were advisors to the kings. Where they were from was uncertain, there is a possibility that these were the descendants of the wise men Daniel trained in Babylon and that is where their knowledge of the Jews and the Messiah came from. Since the shepherds were at the very bottom of the social ladder then, the wise men were at the very top of it. They were Gentiles which is important because it shows that from the very beginning of God’s redemptive plan, that His plan was for Jesus to love and redeem both Jews and Gentiles, rich and poor. No matter who you are, Jesus came for you so that you could live forever with Him. So, this Christmas hold on to that precious truth and make it real in your life, whether that is a reminder of what He has already done for you or you realize that you need Him to redeem you for the very first time. Also, remember that Jesus is in Heaven at the right hand of the Father, but that does not mean that God is no longer with us. He sent the Holy Spirit to dwell in you, which means God dwells in you and is always with you. The true reason Christmas is so important is that God is with us and now dwells within us, because of what Jesus did on the cross.