The first Christmas came and went, hardly a blip on the radar. The infant Jesus was recognized by a few: some astrologers, a narcissistic king, and smelly shepherds. To say that people missed Him would be an understatement. Even if they recognized His existence and the cyclone of political intrigue surrounding Him, most still missed the real Jesus.
Even today, most of humanity doesn’t know Him. Many are missing the most powerful news of who He is and the personal, life-altering reality He brought into our world.
Too often, we focus on certain aspects of the good news of Christ: forgiveness of sins, receiving eternal life, and God’s provision for His children. But in so doing, we miss the moment-by-moment abundance of life in Him!
This Christmas let’s tweak the prescription on our spiritual lenses in order to see the fullness of the first-century event we celebrate. Isaiah’s prophecy, uttered by evangelist Matthew, speaks of a new reality coming to earth. The person of Jesus was God’s response to the deepest longings of humankind:
“The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”—which means, “God with us” (Matthew 1:23 NIV84).
Immanuel. In that word resides a reality often missed by 21st century believers: the real presence of deity in our everyday lives, the 24×7 manifestation of God with us. Immanuel means for us, “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27 NIV).
The gift of Christ to humanity was not one with an expiration date. Jesus walked the Earth and sent in His wake the Holy Spirit, who would continue the work of empowering, teaching, and counseling the children of God. In other words, “God with us” came and never left.
Andrew Murray wrote of the ongoing reality of “God with us” in his classic, The Spirit of Christ,
“In His name and through Him, the Holy Spirit descends as a person to dwell in believers and to make the glorified Jesus a present reality within them.”
A present reality within them. Jesus is still Immanuel. His presence is as real in this moment as it was when He lay in a manger thousands of years ago.
As we reflect on the reality of Immanuel, let’s start a new season of abiding this Christmas. Let’s not just celebrate the gift of Jesus once a year; let’s experience Him every day as we make our home in His ever-present, all-powerful presence.