now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. when his mother mary had been betrothed to joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit.  and her husband joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly.  but as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “joseph, son of david, do not fear to take mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.  she will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”  all this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:  “behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).  when joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife,  but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. and he called his name Jesus. [matthew 1:18-25]
christmas eve is a day full of powerful memories and traditions for most of us. we look back. we remember. we see a day, a time, a memory that evokes … hope, home, family. now for sure, not every memory does that. and for some of us, many of those memories are not hopeful at all. they just hurt. but, there is something about the holidays – especially christmas eve that births such great hope in us (pun intended).
what is it? what stirs such hope in us during this time?
tim keller in his book “prodigal God”, says these are longings for home, for family. there is a desire for belonging, being known, and being accepted that is strong within each of us. and, this desire is not wrong. it is what we were made to have in the Lord. we were created to find our joy in him. in him, in intimate relationship with him we would belong, be known, and be accepted. we were created for this relationship – daughter / son with holy God, our King, our Lord.
but sin wrecked this reality. and, everything we do here on this earth in some sense is an effort or work on our part to get “home”.
God in his mercy, gives us tastes of this in family, in deep friends, in community where we find some sense of belonging, being known and accepted. but, they are just tastes, reminders of what we can only truly know in him.
it is why the holidays evoke such strong emotions in us. we hope that meal, that gathering, that worship service will bring us together with those in which we long to find belonging, being known, and accepted. we hope it will be like we remember it. we hope it will be better. we hope it will heal. we hope. we hope. we hope. … and while these moments can be sweet and powerful, they can never be what our heart and soul need. it needs the intimacy of God with us – Immanuel.
we broke what we were created for – intimate joy with our Creator. God the Father sent God the Son to restore our purpose – to find ourselves in him. and, in order for this to happen, God had to come to us. Jesus came to be “God with us”. in his life, death, and resurrection, we can be restored to the relationship we were created for. we can only find our full – belonging, being known, and being accepted – in Jesus.
today, stop asking of Christmas eve traditions and memories what they were never meant to provide. they are fragrances of the LORD. they are not the LORD. they are a taste of what only he can be. today, come to Jesus. he has come to you. come to Jesus – God with us – Immanuel.
Immanuel – God with us. thank you for living, dying, and rising again so i can find my life in you. thank you that in you i fully belong, i am fully known, and i am fully accepted. this christmas eve, let me only turn to you for those things. let me remind my family of the same. give me the joy of resting all my hope in you and give me the joy of pointing others to find their hope in you. in Jesus name – God with us – amen!
~ john ryan