So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son. - John 1:14
This week we kick off a brand new series called the Names of Jesus – a series on how the names of Christ reveal the true meaning of Christmas.
And alongside this series we also enter a period of time in the Christian calendar called advent. Advent means, essentially, that we are waiting on God. Waiting on the birth of Jesus, and ultimately, the message of salvation that only he can bring.
The story of Jesus is a story of Immanuel. It means God is with us. It’s a word which captures the meaning of the Gospel, that Jesus came to live in our midst.
It also means Jesus came to live incarnationally – he came to serve and not to be served. I think that John 1.14 from the Message translation captures it best when it says that God became 'flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood.’ He came to get close to us, to share life, and to give us the greatest news of all time!
I’m most challenged by this message of incarnation. If the meaning of Christmas is Immanuel, then we must as Christians share this good news with a lost, broken and hurting world. So how can we ‘pay it forward’ this Christmas? How can we make Christmas about the meaning of Immanuel (God with us), and not about family, gifts, meals or parties?
Gustavo Gutiérrez is a philosopher, theologian, and Dominican priest regarded as one of the founders of liberation theology. Gustavo grew up in Peru, where he saw the impoverished and distraught state of many local communities. His commitment to liberation of the poor and oppressed took him to those slums. For Gutierrez the liberation of the poor is the only response to bringing the message of Jesus to a lost world.
In a 2003 interview he said this:
Our context today is characterized by a glaring disparity between the rich and the poor. No serious Christian can quietly ignore this situation. It is no longer possible for someone to say, “Well, I didn’t know” about the suffering of the poor. Poverty has a visibility today that it did not have in the past. The faces of the poor must now be confronted. And we also understand the causes of poverty and the conditions that perpetuate it. There was a time when poverty was considered to be an unavoidable fate, but such a view is no longer possible or responsible. Now we know that poverty is not simply a misfortune; it is an injustice.
We see immediately in the Bible that Jesus came to serve the poor, oppressed and the marginalized. In Luke chapter 2, shepherds in a field nearby hear the news of his birth. These weren’t rich and famous men – they were poor and discounted shepherds. And immediately, they recognize the importance of Jesus. It’s the importance of Immanuel. God is with us.
And God is with us today. Jesus is in our midst, and how can we respond in any other way than to take this message to the poor, the marginalized and the broken so that they too might find the new life Jesus offers?
In little ways throughout this advent, how is God challenging you to bring the news of Jesus to those around you who don’t have the means to celebrate in all the usual ways we take for granted.
With Thanksgiving next week – I want to challenge you this week to not only thank God for the gifts and provision He has given you, but also to look for ways to help those in need around you over the holidays.