Immanuel - God With Us!
Dear Partners in the Gospel Ministry:
Here we are once again sitting at the doorstep of another Nativity season. I call it a Nativity season because Nativity still means something. If you say Christmas season, some may think of trees and elves, sleighs and Santas. Even worse, if we call it a holiday season, there is no clear meaning as to what makes the season holy. After all, that is really what holiday means!
Rather, we sit at the beginning of the Nativity Season. The Nativity focuses our attention where it belongs: On the manger! It is fitting that we focus on the manger. In my years in Wisconsin, this southern Illinois city kid found out what was kept in the manger. The babies were kept in the manger. But the manger in Bethlehem is different that those on Alan Schultz's or Doug Kurth's farms. In those mangers they kept baby Holsteins. The Manger in Bethlehem held a baby. But the baby held in that manger was the very Son of God! We are told already by the prophet Isaiah, Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. The baby in that manger was Immanuel, which means God with us. In that manger, God was with His people. He wore our flesh. He cried the same kind of tears our infants cry. He was fully like us!
But He was laid in a manger. Certainly, one of the reasons was that there was no room for them in the inn. But I think there is one other important allusion that we must grasp about Jesus being laid in a manger. It was there that Jesus also identifies with the animal sacrifice. The same baby Jesus wrapped in swaddling clothes, is the one of who John the Baptizer says "Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!" He is one and the same. He is God in the flesh and the sacrificial lamb who would be offered on the altar of the cross to atone for our sins!
It is for this reason that we must keep the Nativity language in our vocabulary. This holiday season is not some generic thing. This Christmas is more than just gifts and gadgets. The NATIVITY is about birth: The birth of Jesus Christ; The Birth of the Son of God who is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. It is about an infant who was destined to die. To die for forgetful, ungrateful people like us who mark holidays and Christmases and forget the real meaning -- The Nativity. The Birth of Jesus.
This may seem like quibbling over words. But as I tell my confirmands, WORDS MEAN THINGS!!! Make your words count in this secular world. Celebrate the NATIVITY of the Son of God! This year celebrate the Greatest Gift God could have ever given His people. After all, He has given us Jesus, Immanuel. He has given us GOD WITH US!
As you mark this Nativity, share it with your friends. Actually bring them to the manger. You can't go to Bethlehem, but you can bring them to the place where God promises to show us Jesus -- The House of the Lord. If you yourself haven't been to the Lord's Table recently, now is the time. If your family hasn't been in awhile, go get them. Be like the Sheperds who made haste and went even unto Bethlehem to see what the angels were talking about. You can do it! Now more than ever this is such an important message to get out! Ask God to use you this Nativity to bring others: friends, family co-workers and classmates to see Jesus. He is the one who takes away your sins and theirs. He is God with us!!
A Blessed Nativity To You All!