“What Do We Need During A 2020 Christmas? Immanuel!”
Christmas day is almost here! If this were any other year, that statement would most likely fill us with joy and excitement. However, this is no ordinary year, and therefore this Christmas may be no ordinary Christmas. At least, it may be different than we are accustomed to. Welcome to Christmas 2020.
Unfortunately, many people will not get to spend time with all of those family members and friends we usually enjoy at Christmas. In fact, the joy of Christmas may seem less than joyful and this December 25th will perhaps be just another day at home. If this is the case for you, I am truly sorry. This is not how Christmas should be. You see, we are meant to be together with others. We are meant to be with family and friends. So what we really need this 2020 Christmas is not more gifts and treats, but contact.
While 2020 may seem grim, I do want to encourage you that Christmas doesn't have to be, even if you are alone this Friday. Why? Because Christmas is all about God coming to His people, about God making contact with us. Therefore, if you are a follower of Christ, you can be assured that you are not alone but that He is with you.
The Gospel of Matthew opens with the account of an angel visiting Joseph in order that he may have insight into Mary’s pregnancy. As readers of the gospel we are told, “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). The child in Mary’s womb did not come into existence at the moment of His miraculous conception. This is merely the moment He took upon Himself a human body and nature. The baby we celebrate at Christmas is God made flesh. He is Immanuel, God with us!
Yes, I recognize this is a huge claim, one many people will disagree with; however, this is the belief of Christians throughout the ages because it is the testimony of the Bible. And if this testimony is true, then the baby Jesus of Christmas is in fact your Creator, the Maker of heaven and earth. One way we ascertain the divinity of Jesus throughout the gospel accounts is by the response that others have when they encounter Him. What is the proper response when one encounters Jesus? Worship! And worship belongs to God alone.
Every devout Jew knows that worship can only legitimately be given to God. To worship anything or anyone besides God is idolatry and in violation of the 2nd Commandment. God Himself says, “My glory I will give to no other” (Isaiah 42:8). The Apostle John, overcome with emotion when he is given great visions in the book of Revelation, responds by falling at the feet of an angel in worship. The angel quickly corrects John, saying, “You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you… Worship God” (Revelation 22:9). The Apostle Peter answered likewise when he entered the house of Cornelius, who fell down at his feet to worship Peter. “Stand up; I too am a man” (Acts 10:26). Peter could not abide anyone worshiping him in place of God. Yet Mary and Joseph say nothing when the magi come to visit the Christ child and fall on their knees to worship Him (Matthew 2:11). If this child is not God in the flesh, then these “wise men” are actually very foolish. However, if He is, then they are doing what every soul on earth should be doing. They recognize that Jesus is Immanuel.
Jesus receives worship from many others throughout the gospels. How does Jesus react when people begin to worship Him? If He is only a great teacher or prophet, then His response should be similar to the Apostle Peter and the angel in the book of Revelation. However, because Jesus recognizes Himself to be the eternal God made flesh, accepting worship is proper and right.
On one occasion, Jesus’ disciples were in a boat when all of sudden, they saw Him walking on the water. Afterwards, we are told “those in the boat worshiped Him, saying, ‘Truly You are the Son of God’”(Matthew 14:33). No rebuke or correction from the lips of Jesus; the narrative just goes on with the assumption that Jesus accepts their worship. After Jesus’ resurrection, John recognizes that Jesus truly has risen again, proclaiming “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28). The women also, after they encounter the risen Christ, take hold of His feet and worship Him. Jesus responds, “Do not be afraid…” (Matthew 28:9-10). Again, no rebuke or correction. Jesus accepts the worship that is due only to God. Why?-- because He is God and He is with His people.
So the reason why Christmas is so amazing is because God not only enters into His own creation to save it, but He does so in the most humble of ways. He “emptied Himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:7-8). This is an incredible statement. God became one of us in order to die for our sins and save us. So what is your response when you consider that baby Jesus lying in the manger? The familiar carol “Angels from the Realms of Glory” has it right as it ends each stanza with the words “Come and worship, come and worship, worship Christ the newborn King!”
Christmas is about God coming to His people. People who are lonely, lost in sin, struggling in this world can find hope and peace in the God who does not remain distant. Even today, followers of Christ have this assurance that Jesus remains with us. Some of His last words before He ascended up to the right hand of the Father included His promise to remain with His people. Hear these words this Christmas, “I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).