Christmas is About ‘God with Us’
Have we lost focus on what Christmas is all about as we busy ourselves with all the festivities? Pastor Oliver turns our focus back to the birth of Jesus and explains why the incarnation is so important.
“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).”
Matthew 1:22-23 (ESV)
Christmas for Christians in Singapore tend to be a busy time. We go on holidays with family. We schedule meet-ups with friends before the year-end. We participate in our churches' Christmas celebrations and hear the birth narrative of Jesus all through Advent. The danger of these activities is that it may cause us to forget or neglect the key thing about Christmas. I know that I've been distracted. So, when I had the afternoon off yesterday, I went to the Gardens by the Bay with a good book. I spent the afternoon reflecting on Christmas. So, what is the main thing about Christmas? What is the one takeaway for believers this season? I was reminded that Christmas is about Immanuel.
The main thing about Christmas is this: Jesus birth, which we remember at Christmas, means that "God is with us" (Immanuel) (Matt 1:22-23). Jesus’ birth tells us that God took on human flesh and came to earth. The divine came wrapped up in a baby. Christmas is about the incarnation. In one sense, since God is omnipresent (c.f. Ps 139:7-10), He is everywhere with us. But what the incarnation does is we see God in human form. As Tim Keller writes,
"When you read the Gospels, you are seeing God in human form. We see God's perfections in ways that we can relate to. We see his love, his humility, his brilliance, his wisdom, and his compassion. But they are no longer abstractions. We see them in all their breath-taking, real-life forms. You can know the glories of God from the Old Testament, so overwhelming and daunting, but in Jesus Christ, they come near. He becomes graspable, palpable. He becomes above all personal, someone with whom to have a relationship."
The birth of Jesus, which we remember at Christmas, means that God has drawn close to us despite our sins. In Jesus Christ, we see the glories of God. What the incarnation gives us is also the promise of fellowship. God has become a person with whom we can have a relationship – we can talk with, cry to, laugh with and share our hurts and joys. No longer is God ‘God who is out there’, but in Jesus Christ, He is right here, right now with us.
I know that the Christmas holidays can be a difficult time for some of us. We may be single again, having lost a loved one. Or we may be single and never married. Or we may have family that have wandered away from Jesus Christ. When we see the gatherings and celebrations, they remind us of what we do not have. But my friends, for the hurting and lonely among us, Christmas promises that "God is with us" – we can be alone yet not lonely.
And that is the promise of Christmas – that we can have fellowship with God. Jesus Christ was born, and he started on the path that will take him to Calvary. There on the cross, Jesus Christ died on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins. So, now nothing will hinder us from drawing close to God. This is God's gracious gift for those who trust in Christ, but it is also a challenge. All believers, despite the busyness of the holidays, need to pursue this fellowship with God. As Tim Keller again writes,
"The incarnation, Christmas, means that God is not content to be a concept or just someone you know from a distance. Do what it takes to get close to him. Christmas is a challenge as well as a promise about fellowship with God."
Jesus’ birth is a gracious gift from God. However, our responsibility is to pursue this friendship with Jesus. So, in the next couple of weeks, pursue Christ and remember to continue in the ordinary means of grace. Read the Bible to hear from Jesus. Spend time in prayer talking with Jesus. Connect with Jesus' people: the church, and serve and care for those in our midst who may be hurting as we love the body of Christ as Jesus would love. Above all, never stop being surprised and thankful that God has drawn near to us!
Hidden Christmas: The Surprising Truth Behind the Birth of Christ. Timothy Keller, 2018.
WHAT IS GOING ON IN THE LIFE OF THE CHURCH:
CHRISTMAS SERVICE | WED 25 DEC | 9.00AM
We invite everyone to join us in celebrating and worshipping God's promised King and Saviour, Jesus Christ on 25 December at 9.00 am. This is also a great opportunity for you to invite your non-Christian friends to hear about God's grace and faithfulness to save sinners. So see you on 25 December. Do remember to pray for the Christmas Service!
WATCH NIGHT SERVICE | TUE 31 DEC | 8.00 pm
To mark the year's end and the dawn of 2020, we want to spend the closing moments of 2019 reflecting on God's goodness and looking forward in hope to what He will do in 2020. Please join us for an evening of fellowship in praise and prayer, hearing God's word, and being encouraged by testimonies of His grace at work among us. Also note that there will NOT be a prayer meeting on the last Friday, 27 December.
SUNDAY SERVICE | SUNDAY 22 DEC | 9.00 am
Come hear about the birth of John the Baptist from Luke 1:57-80 and how it points to the hope and anticipation that we have in Jesus Christ. Read the passage 2-3 times before you come, and pray that our hearts will receive the word of God with great joy!