In my last Advent blog post the focus was on God in touch with us in the person of Jesus, the greatest of all miracles — the unique and solitary “Son of God” becoming the one and only “Son of Man,” that we might become sons and daughters of God!
This is the great truth, the “Good News” we Christians celebrate during the Advent Season every year, but added to that is the glorious truth that we can be in touch with God every day because of the incarnation. Because of who Jesus is and what he accomplished for us in his sinless life, by his vicarious suffering and atoning death, and through his victorious resurrection (i.e., his victory over sin and death), we can be in touch with God. It is almost too good to be true, that God visited this planet in the flesh, dwelt among us in human form as One “full of grace and truth” (John 1:14), that we sinful human beings might be able to be in touch with a holy and righteous God, this is news too good not to be true!
This was the purpose of the incarnation, that we might be able to enjoy an intimate relationship with God forever through his “only begotten Son” (John 3:16). He was “born of woman” at a specific point in time, in what the New Testament calls “the fullness of time” (Galatians 4:4-8), that we might become “children of God” for all time. He shared our human nature that we might “become participants in the divine nature” (II Peter 1:4), not just during our time on earth, but for eternity; enjoying eternal fellowship with God through faith in the risen and glorified Christ Jesus. WONDER OF WONDERS!
This is the real message of Christmas, but a message many have never heard, including a large number in Christ’s Church today. I believe we can assume that almost all those who bear Christ’s name enjoy singing “Away in a Manger,” “Silent Night,” and “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing” — but we can also say that many who sing those familiar hymns have rarely considered the true meaning of the words. How many have grasped the sense of wonder that should fill our minds when we contemplate the incredible message Christmas proclaims about the wonder-working power of Almighty God? How many understand that the Holy Spirit breathed upon a virgin teenager named Mary, so the child conceived in her womb would be the sinless Christ in human form, God “veiled in flesh,” Mary’s little lamb destined to become the “Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29)? Not only does the New Testament announce his virgin birth, but also his virgin life. Jesus had to be without sin to become the one sufficient sacrifice for all sins of all sinners for all time (Hebrews 7:26-27, 9:11-14 and 24-28, 10:10-14).
Consider how Mary must have felt when she was told that the child to whom she would give birth would be the holy one of God, the Messiah, and she should name him Jesus (meaning “God saves” or “Savior”). The Greek New Testament equivalent for the Old Testament title “Messiah” is “Christ,” meaning “the anointed One,” who would come to save God’s people from the power and penalty of sin. Imagine Mary’s surprise, her joy and sense of wonder at the “Annunciation,” when the angel appeared to her announcing that she was chosen to be the mother of “the Son of God” (Luke 1:26-36). Luke records in his gospel Mary’s song of praise (the “Magnificat,” so-called from the first word of the Latin translation). “My soul magnifies the Lord (declares the greatness and glory of the Lord God), and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name” (vs. 46-49).
Mary was not chosen because she was better than any other Jewish woman, the only virgin in Galilee or Judah. She was chosen by the grace of God, as we are when we draw near to God in faith, confessing Jesus as our Savior and Lord. Mary was chosen because she had overwhelming confidence in God (not a bad definition of faith, the kind of faith that “pleases God” – see Hebrews 11:6). Mary was chosen because of her trust in God, because of her submission to the will of God, because of her willingness to be used by God according to His perfect plan and eternal purpose. When God called, she answered. When Mary was told she had been chosen, she obeyed, in spite of the cost. We can only begin to imagine how the other women in Nazareth, as well as the men, must have been whispering that Mary, betrothed to Joseph, was pregnant. When she told others in her hometown that she had never known a man, but had been chosen by God to be the mother of the long-awaited Messiah, they not only doubted, they gossiped.
It was no easier to explain a virgin birth in the first century than it would be today, in the twenty-first century! Even Joseph had trouble believing the fantastic story Mary told him, but the angel also appeared to him in a dream, confirming Mary’s story, telling him not to be ashamed or afraid to take her as his wife. Matthew tells us in his gospel that when Joseph woke up, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded; he took Mary as his wife, but “knew her not until she had borne a son, and they called his name Jesus” (Matthew 1:24-25). “For all this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet (i.e., Isaiah): “A virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel, which means “God with us“ — i.e., God among us, God in touch with us.
I am sure you can tell by now that I like the expression “in touch” when I am talking about the miracle of the incarnation. This is the real “reason for the season” that you and I might be in touch with God — that we might be able to experience God’s presence and power in our own lives today, and every day! Yes, it was wonderful when God was here among us in the person of the historical Jesus, and how people were able to touch him and to also experience his touch. Remember how a woman with “an issue of blood” (i.e., hemorrhaging), had been to many doctors but was no better. She was feeling hopeless until she heard of Jesus and his miracles of healing. She had heard the reports about his miraculous powers and believed if she could only touch Jesus (perhaps just “the hem of his garment”), she would be healed. The day came when Jesus was passing through her town, but was in the midst of of a large crowd; however, she was able to reach out and touch him as he passed by. Jesus asked amid the pressure of that crowd, “Who touched me?” He recognized that one magnetic touch of faith! Remember also how a man born blind had his eyes opened to see for the very first time when Jesus had mercy on him, touched his eyes, and the first thing he saw was the hand of the one who had touched him.
It is no less true and no less wonderful that we can be in touch with Jesus today. We can reach out to him and, by faith, experience the touch of the Master’s hand. During the three years of his public ministry, Jesus even touched so-called “untouchables,” lepers who were considered “unclean” and not allowed to live in the community, forced to live in leper colonies. They, too, not only felt helpless, but hopeless. They could not even visit the temple and must have felt abandoned by God until they encountered Jesus, who did not see them as others saw them. He did not see them as “unclean” and “untouchable.” He touched them, and they were clean. With Jesus, there were no hopeless cases. He did not see anyone the way others saw them. When he looked out upon the crowds that followed him, “he was moved with compassion,” for he “saw them as sheep without a shepherd, harassed and helpless.” He always saw beyond the faults of people to their needs and called them to follow him, not only offering them an “abundant life” in this world but “everlasting life” in his Father’s kingdom.
During this Advent season, Jesus may be reaching out to you. If you have never been in touch with Jesus, if you have never responded to his call, I hope and pray you will reach out to him right now. Receive the greatest of all Christmas gifts: God’s forgiveness of your sins and the assurance of salvation, hear Him say, “I gave myself for you, and as you now give yourself to me I give you my peace, my joy, and my abiding presence with you, now and forever.”
THIS CAN BE THE GREATEST CHRISTMAS YOU HAVE EVER HAD!