Thursday, First Week of Advent

"All this was spoken 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

God With Us

I love the Christmas season. I enjoy sipping eggnog before a crackling fire with the snow silently blanketing the ground outside. Perhaps I have a good book with me. Maybe I just sit there and stare into the embers. All the while, those classic Christmas hymns play on the radio and gently wrap me round like a warm fleece blanket, blocking out the chill and lulling me into a peaceful state of contentedness. The tree stands proud in the corner and fills the house with that familiar pine scent. The miniature Mary and Joseph with the baby Jesus are on the mantle, reverently watched by three wise men, two sheep, a camel, and a donkey.

I wonder, though, as I warm my hands in front of the fire, why do they watch reverently? What?s all the hubbub? Why is this scene so ingrained in our cultural consciousness? Perhaps when we look to the heart of the matter, we must ask the following: why is Christmas so special? The answer, I believe, lies in the very person of Jesus. The wonder that we come together to celebrate every December is that Jesus is Immanuel, or ?God with us.? Think about it: the One who called the stars and planets, the trees and oceans, and every proton and electron into existence, in an act of humility and love, chose to become one of us in the person of Jesus.

C.S. Lewis said, "God has landed on this enemy-occupied world in human form...The perfect surrender and humiliation was undergone by Christ: perfect because He was God, surrender and humiliation because He was man." Jesus perfectly experienced and shared in the human condition. He was hungry and thirsty, ate meals, went to a wedding party, got dirt between his toes, even wept. He cared for the downtrodden and outcast of his time and ate with those considered unclean or sinful. We celebrate Christmas for this reason: because God is not distant and aloof, but imminent, caring about and sharing in our joys and our sorrows, our pleasures and our pains, and through Jesus are we redeemed to God.

-- Matt Van Hook '06