We joyfully celebrate the birth of God the Son come to live with us, die for us, rise from the dead, bless us with eternal life, and never leave nor forsake us for all our days. Simultaneously, we watch for him to return at any moment. The parousia — The Second Coming — will occur. In between those two events, we live every moment in the presence of Emmanuel, God with us.
This year has been one of the most difficult of our lives, and yet, through all of this, Christ Jesus has been with us. Whatever he allowed to touch us was for our good, for our growth, for our reformation, and for his purposes. His presence has surrounded us, filled us, and carried us through this year, even when we’ve cried in the darkness of night, feeling that he was far away, yet all the while knowing that he is near.
The reality of his presence has never altered, no matter our losses, our tragedies, and our isolation. At times, we may not have even known how to pray. Simply turning to face the Lord — aware of our Comforter — while waiting quietly with an expectant heart may have been all we could muster during devastating times of unspeakable sorrow.We joyfully celebrate the birth of God the Son come to live with us, die for us, rise from the dead, bless us with eternal life, and never leave nor forsake us for all our days. #GodWithUs Click To Tweet
We had days when we were Job-like, stating our objections to the current circumstances, protesting to the Lord of the universe for allowing this to happen, and then lamenting our way around to acknowledging his supremacy and the omniscient working of his mysterious plan.
At times, we were like the shepherds. Stunned into silence, all we could do was bow before him, yielded to the circumstances outside our control, and yet adoring and trusting him, no matter what occurred. In all of this, God has been and always will be with us. He never leaves us. He never forsakes us. Soon, he will return to bring us home.
On this blessed Christmas Eve, I share these encouragements of Christ with us, of Christ returning — the parousia, and of Christ’s sustaining presence.
“25 Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages 26 but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith— 27 to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen” (Romans 16:25-27 ESV).
Emmanuel is able and willing to strengthen us during these times of duress. He has the ability and the resources within his Person to turn us resolutely in the way we should go and to enable us to walk in the path God has given us, establishing us on the Rock foundation of himself, the Cornerstone of our faith, during any trial, tragedy, or difficulty.Emmanuel is able and willing to strengthen us during these times of duress. He has the ability and the resources within his Person to turn us resolutely in the way we should go and to enable us to walk in the path God has given. Click To Tweet
The power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ makes this possible. The Gospel reveals exactly who Emmanuel is, God with us, and that we desperately need him. We realize that he came, not to conquer, but to lay down his life, so that we might be forgiven and made members of his own household, his family, in unity and harmony with God forever.
The fact that God wants us, yes even us, people scattered all over the world, to be his very own was a mystery for thousands of years. The Father had chosen the Jewish people through whom he wove the genetic material of the Son in human flesh. So, what did this have to do with us?
All other nations are now made welcome. All, anyone, everyone, no matter our nations or tribes, can come to Christ Jesus for salvation. Our ancient ancestors didn’t even know what we lacked, as our tribes ranged all over the earth, fighting, worshiping rocks and stones and trees and stars. God even wanted us, though our ancestors never knew who he was until Christ came and brave Christian preachers arrived to tell them.
Ancient prophecies guided some, for even the stars declared God’s Good News. Wise men from the east, where Israel had once lived in captivity, came seeking Messiah guided by a star, perhaps an alignment of Jupiter, Saturn, and Mars, similar to the “Christmas Star” of this past week which had only Jupiter and Saturn in conjunction.
The secret of Jesus Messiah was disclosed when the Old Testament’s prophetic words were coupled with the facts of the New Testament era — God himself had put on flesh and entered human history, because he loves the people of the world that much.
The apostles’ wide-ranging work and Constantine’s edicts and councils and sometimes wars spread the Gospel from Constantinople throughout Eastern Europe and toward Asia, and also into Arabia and Northern Africa in the first centuries after Christ.
Central and East Africa was reached by the conversion and the spread of the Gospel by the Ethiopian eunuch who believed, and by northern Africans, among them Augustine, who preached and wrote some of the most significant early theology.
Once the Gospel reached Britannia, it was passed on far and wide by Irish monks, who possessed the earliest Latin manuscripts, copied them, and then copied them again, propelling the Gospel across western Europe between approximately 500-700 A.D. They became missionaries, giving their lifeblood and losing their lives as they proclaimed the Good News to all European tribes that existed, even in Northern Europe.
It was the “command of the eternal God” (above Romans 16:26) that they do so, that they tell the message to all, to every single one, so that everyone could hear and know of Christ Jesus the Savior. And I am glad, so very glad, that my ancient ancestors, some of the most violent of ancient peoples, received that news and embraced it. By the grace of God, non-Jewish people were saved and united with Christ Jesus as members of his own family.
And now, because of God’s plan, we have the best of all gifts at Christmas. We have Emmanuel, our dearest friend, the One who sticks closest to us, Who never leaves us, Who never forsakes us, and Who will carry us home to an eternity with him that has no end.Because of God's plan, we have the best of all gifts at Christmas. We have Emmanuel, our dearest friend, the One who sticks closest to us, Who never leaves us, Who never forsakes us, and Who will carry us home. Click To Tweet
“But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death” (1 Corinthians 15:20-26 ESV).
Because Christ rose from the dead and defeated death, not only do all who have entrusted themselves to him — believing him to be the Savior and Lord — have the blessing of his presence while we live, but we also have an eternity with him.Because Christ rose from the dead, not only do all who have entrusted themselves to him — believing him to be Savior and Lord — have the blessing of his presence while we live, but we also have eternity with him. Click To Tweet
“Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. ‘Death is swallowed up in victory.’ ‘O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:51, 55-57 ESV).
“For I know that my Redeemer lives,
and at the last he will stand upon the earth.
And after my skin has been thus destroyed,
yet in my flesh I shall see God,
whom I shall see for myself,
and my eyes shall behold, and not another.
My heart faints within me!” (Job 19:25-27 ESV)
May God bless you and yours as we all await the second coming of our Lord Jesus Messiah. We remember his birth and his ministry of reconciliation on this holy day, and we long for and anticipate his return:
“Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it” (Thessalonians 5:23-24 ESV).