12/22/2019: For God So Loved the World
For God So Loved the World
Matthew 1: 18-25
A sermon by Reverend Gretchen Jones Switzer
For many, many years, I thought about Christmas as a celebration of God’s “Son” being born into the human world. As children we learn about the little innocent, helpless baby, being born to God the gather and Mary the mother. It made sense at the time.
But, as I studied Theology and began to consider the broader implications of God coming to us at Christmas, I began to think about Christmas in a different way. That is not to say, that I do not celebrate the birth of the Baby Jesus as I always have. I absolutely do, but in my heart and mind, the implications have grown bigger, more profound, and more touching over the years. Christmas is personal to me in a way few things are. It reaches out and touches my deepest self.
We call this Christmas act of God “The Incarnation.” Which means more than God just popping into the form of a newborn human baby to startle and amaze Mary and Joseph, the Angels, the Shepherds and the Kings and a stray cow or pig here and there. It means that God came in this way, so that God could know how it felt to be human, so God could know how it feels to be us.
Now there are those who ask “Couldn’t God have experienced the same thing all on his own from heaven?” and I suppose the answer would have to be yes. By some miraculous divine power, I would think that God could have figured out how it feels to be human without going to all this trouble. The problem with that thought, though, is that God didn’t just come here in Jesus to find out what being human was like. God came here in Jesus so that you and I would absolutely, positively KNOW that our God understands because God has experienced life the way we do. It helps us to know that we are not alone. We are never alone, and no matter what we go through in our lives, we have a God who knows exactly what that feels like and because of that, God can always give us what we need to survive any challenge or trauma that comes out way.
It is an ingenious, marvelous, wonderful miracle we celebrate this week – A God who loves us so much that God would go through this just for us!!! Given all this, the truth of Christmas is that God is not giving just his son. God is giving us his actual self. The very essence of God dwells among us and within us. “God with us.”
Emmanuel. This is the true gift of Christmas!!! Revelation 21:3 says, that God himself will be with his people. Why does it say “God Himself”? Because God didn’t merely send a delegate. God didn’t just send down an angel, like Gabriel to represent God. God himself actually came from heaven to live among us and ultimately in us! In reflecting on Handel’s Messiah, Joseph E. McCable wrote: “Never again are we to look at the stars, as we did when we were children, and wonder how far it is to God. A child and wonder how far it is to God. A being outside our world would be a spectator, looking on, but taking no part in this life, where we try to be brave despite all the bafflement. A God who created and withdrew, could be mighty, but he could not be love.”
Christmas means that God so loves the world that he came to live with us and died for us so that we can be with Him forever. Christ promises He will wipe away all our tears, and there will be no more death and suffering, no final goodbyes. If we know Jesus, the great reunion awaits us. We will meet Emmanuel face to face, heart to heart, eye to eye.
Whatever your circumstances, God is with you. God Loves you. This is the gift of Christmas – The baby in the manger and the spirit of God dwelling within you. Let us celebrate God’s coming with Joy.
David Jeremiah writes, “Our dads or moms may no longer be around to tuck us into bed, but our Emmanuel never leaves us. Sometimes it helps to envision his presence in the care beside us, sitting by us in the pew at church or leaning over us in bed as if to tuck us in. It’s not a matter of visualizing an imaginary person, but of recognizing the presence of a dear friend, “God with us, Emmanuel.”