Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Emmanuel: God With Us

This is my 100th post, so I'm going to try my hardest to make it a good one! :)

As we approach the Christmas season, and the holiday lights are going up, cookies are being decorated, and presents are being bought and wrapped, one thought that continues to be on my heart is the true significance of the name "Emmanuel." God with us. God in human form, pleased to dwell with us.

What did it mean 2,000 years ago for God to come and live among men? What does it mean for our lives now? It means that God Himself, Jehovah, I AM, the one who hung the stars in the heavens and carved the oceans out of the depths, came to earth. Yes, He came to ultimately die and rise again to redeem us. But He also came to experience life as we know it, to weep over the things we weep over, to laugh with us over our joys, and to experience brokenness, poverty, loneliness, pain, and everything else that afflicts the human race.

He didn't just come to die, he truly came to live among us as the prophets foretold. He came to bind up the brokenhearted, to release us from our prisons, to preach good news to the poor, and to replace our ashes with crowns of beauty and our cloaks of despair with garments of praise. He came to break the silence with the hope of God's presence on earth.

In between the final prophets of the Old Testament and the birth of Christ, 400 years passed when God appeared to many of His people to be completely silent. I've felt many times in my own life that God has been silent, and I'm sure that you have too. But one of the miracles of Christmas is that when Christ came, on that long-awaited day, 400 years of silence were finally shattered by a baby's cry (as this song so beautifully describes). God was silent no more. He became our peace, and every barrier between God and man was broken.

In the 1960s, a missionary named Don Richardson went to Indonesia to evangelize among the Sawi people, an indigenous tribe known best for violence, deceit, and treachery. Few had ever attempted to reach them before. Richardson knew what he was up against when he first shared the Gospel story with the Sawi, and the only character they resonated with was Judas the betrayer.

Soon, war broke out between the Sawi and a neighboring tribe. Desperate to end the devastation and make peace, the Sawi chief decided to invoke a traditional treaty with the rival tribe: the agreement of the "peace child." In this agreement, one side offered to the other a baby boy to raise as its own. As long as that child lived, peace would prevail between the two tribes. The chief asked for volunteers to give up a child, but no one stepped forward. Finally, the chief himself, overwhelmed by grief, brought his only son and laid him in the arms of the rival chief, making peace.

Watching this scene unfold, Richardson knew exactly how to share the Gospel with the Sawi people. He explained to them that Jesus Christ, God's only Son, was the divine "peace child," given over to a sinful human race to reconcile mankind to the Father for all time. As long as that child lived, there would be peace between God and man.

Yes, Jesus is the "peace child," the Redeemer, the lifter of our heads and the healer of our hearts, who came to live and walk with us just as much as He ultimately came to die for us. Let that sink in this Christmas as you ponder the divine wonder of "Emmanuel," God with us, our Prince of Peace.

For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor--so that you through His poverty might become rich.
2 Corinthians 8:9 

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