As we celebrate Jesus’s miraculous birth each Christmas, we pray for the “peace on earth and goodwill toward men” that angels declared to astounded shepherds more than 2,000 years ago. But with all the discord, chaos, and tragedy that has befallen our world, that kind of peace and goodwill can seem elusive, if not impossible.
Yet, the Christmas story fills us with hope because it reminds us of the presence, promise, and provision of God.
The presence of God
Christmas is about the miracle of Immanuel, which means “God with us” (Matthew 1:23).
In Latin, “incarnare” means “to make flesh.” The essence of the Christian faith is that God became a human being. God stepped out of eternity and into time, fully God and man expressed and experienced in the person of Jesus Christ.
This mystery is beyond our comprehension. Mary herself questioned the announcement made by the angel Gabriel: “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” (Luke 1:34). And Gabriel reminded her, “For nothing will be impossible with God” (Luke 1:37).
I used to think that the goal of the Christian life was to wrap my mind around every biblical truth and to know everything there is to know about the Christian faith. I’ve been studying the Bible for many years, and the more I grow in my faith, the more I realize some truths will always transcend my understanding.
The very idea that God could inhabit our space and live in a human body is beyond our finite imagination, but it is the clear revelation of Scripture. As the Apostle Paul writes, “Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness: He [Jesus] was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory” (1 Timothy 3:16).
The promise of God
Genesis 3:15 shows us that from the beginning, God’s plan was at work to redeem humanity. Throughout Scripture, we read of a Messiah who would come to restore the world one day.The patriarchs considered Him, the psalmists sang of Him and the prophets spoke of Him.
Passages from the Old Testament indicate the Messiah would be born of a virgin and his name would be called “Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14), he would be a descendent of David (Isaiah 11:1) and would come from Bethlehem and the tribe of Judah (Micah 5:2). All these prophecies — and many others — are fulfilled perfectly in Jesus, the Word who became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14).
Jesus as the “Word” signifies that Jesus is the complete and final revelation of God. Jesus was God with skin. In Jesus, we have the mind of God thinking, the heart of God beating, the hands of God reaching and the feet of God walking. He is the one who was promised from long ago.
The provision of God
The name “Jesus” means “The LORD saves.” Jesus, as God incarnate, came on a mission to show us the Father, save us from our sins and satisfy the longings of our lives. As C.S. Lewis so beautifully writes:
“...one has the picture of a diver, stripping off garment after garment, making himself naked, then flashing for a moment in the air, and then down through the green and warm and sunlit water into the pitch black, cold, freezing water, down into the mud and slime, then up again, his lungs almost bursting, back again to the green and warm and sunlit water, and then at last out into the sunshine, holding in his hand the dripping thing he went down to get. This thing is human nature; but associated with it, all nature, the new universe.”
Perhaps today, you are experiencing pain and suffering in your life, and you don’t understand why. You may be wondering, “Where are you, God?” I’ve been there, too. One of the Christmas story themes is “Do not fear.” The angel Gabriel said to Joseph and Mary, “Do not be afraid.” When the angels announced Jesus’s birth to the shepherds, they said, “Fear not.” We live in a world of fear, and the only way we will know peace on earth is to know the Prince of Peace.
Jesus came to defeat our fears, to strip them of their power over us. He came to restore our broken relationship with God.
That is our Immanuel. He will never leave us nor forsake us. He is God with us, forever.
Dr. Jack Graham is the pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church, one of the largest and fastest-growing churches in America. He is the author of the acclaimed Unseen, and his PowerPoint Ministries broadcasts are available in 92 countries and are heard daily in more than 740 cities. Follow him @jackngraham.