Monthly Archives: December 2019
Immanuel – God With Us!
At Christmastime we often hear the story of how the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary to announce the miraculous birth of Jesus. But did you know that Gabriel also spoke to Mary's husband? Let's listen to what happened when the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream:
"Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, 'Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.' All this took place 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).
When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus" (Matthew 1:18-25 ESV).
Matthew quoted the words of the prophet Isaiah: "Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel" (7:14 ESV). Seven hundred years after Isaiah spoke, the archangel appeared to Mary and Joseph to announce that through Jesus, whose name means Yahweh saves, the prophecy would be fulfilled and from that point forward, God would forever be among his people.
In the Old Testament after the fall of Adam and Eve, God was with his people from a distance - in the pillar of cloud and fire in Exodus 13; on Mount Sinai in Exodus 19; and hovering over the mercy seat in the Holy of Holies in Exodus 40. The birth of Jesus brought God ever so much closer to us. In the New Testament gospels, the sweet baby born in a stable would grow and thrive to become the man who would reach out and touch the untouchable, dine with the unmentionables, and die and rise again to save the world from sin. He walked, talked, healed and taught among us, as one of us. As John wrote in his gospel, Jesus was "That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life—" (1 John 1:1 ESV).
At first, the only New Testament saint to experience the presence of God dwelling within her was the virgin, Mary; but beginning in Acts chapter two, when the church was born through the baptism of the Holy Spirit, Jesus' presence with us became even closer, and now he dwells deep in the heart of every believer. Jesus truly is the friend who sticks closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24).
Over many years I have participated in ministries that visit and provide comfort and prayer to those who are suffering in nursing homes, hospitals, and jails. The one thing that is unfailingly true in every situation is that the presence of Jesus Christ is with his people in every sick bed and jail cell. I have witnessed men and women come to the Lord in situations where they have felt so lost, forgotten and alone that they did not believe that they could withstand it for another day, and in a single moment, I have seen them repent and return to hope, life, and peace - where although everything outside of them remained the same, everything on the inside was changed forever.
As Isaiah prophesied, the Son who would be given to us would be our Wonderful Counselor, our Everlasting Father and our Peace (9:6). And yet, Jesus is even more than that. He is one of us, and he is with us. When we receive him as our Lord and Savior, he literally sends his own Spirit to live within us. Jesus is with us when we are sick. He is with us when we are alone. God Almighty, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace is with his children when they are in a jail cell. He is with us when we are in a hospital bed or a nursing home. He is always with us, and when we suffer he suffers with us (1 Peter 5:10). When we are lonely, he comforts us (John 14:26). When we are guilty, he saves us by his grace (Ephesians 2:8). When we face disease, by his stripes, we are healed (1 Peter 2:24). When we face persecution, his love never wavers (Romans 8:31-39).
Often when we think about these things, we picture God as out there somewhere, acting on us from a distance. That may have been the case for the Old Testament saints, but for us, on this side of the Cross, Jesus is not "out there," he is "in here." He lives inside each one of us who believe. So when we suffer, he suffers with us and he comforts us. When we are lonely, he is with us. When we are confused, he will guide us from the inside. When anyone is lost who comes to him, Jesus saves.
David, the sweet psalmist who was filled with the Holy Spirit knew this when he wrote:
"O Lord, you have searched me and known me!
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from afar.
You search out my path and my lying down
and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.
You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is high; I cannot attain it.
Where shall I go from your Spirit?
Or where shall I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
If I take the wings of the morning
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me.
If I say, 'Surely the darkness shall cover me,
and the light about me be night,'
even the darkness is not dark to you;
the night is bright as the day,
for darkness is as light with you."
(Psalm 139:1-12 ESV)
King David's words are true for us too, because Christ lives within us. And because Jesus lives within us, he knows us. He cares for us more deeply than we can possibly imagine. He is Immanuel, God with us.
So if the holiday season is difficult for you, if you're suffering or facing a difficult diagnosis, or you are alone and in a situation that you cannot change - please remember that Jesus, the One who saves, is also called Immanuel - the One who is always with us.
Jesus is the One who stepped down from his throne in glory to be born in a stable and to be nailed to a cross for us. He came to live as a human man, die the death that we should have suffered, and rise again to give us eternal life. And when he had accomplished the work that our Father in heaven gave him to do among us, he sent his Spirit to abide within us, forever, so that we would never be without our Comforter.
Hear the still, small voice within you that says, I Am with you. I AM Immanuel!
"...And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age" (Matthew 28:20b ESV).
We hope you enjoy this gorgeous, uplifting version of the ancient hymn:
"O Come, O Come, Emmanuel" - (Piano/Cello) - The Piano Guys https://youtu.be/iO7ySn-Swwc
Mary’s Song of Praise.
I've had Mary on my mind this Christmas season, as I think about how grateful I am for the unspeakable gift that God has given us in his Son. Although scripture only gives us a few glimpses into Jesus' childhood, we know the Christmas story doesn't end in the manger.
Mary played an incredible, immaculate role in God's gift of salvation. Not only did she carry our Savior, nurturing him near her heart in her womb, but once he was delivered she cared for his every need, she loved him, she guided him and she kept him safe. She was his mother, and she mothered him.
Luke 2:49 relates that the young Jesus, "...grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favor of God was upon him" (ESV). We know that Jesus was, is, and always will be the ultimate in perfection. He does not change, and he will always be sinless. But in the gospel of Luke, we get a small inkling that sometimes it was challenging to raise even the most perfect child...
When Jesus was twelve years old, he and his family went to Jerusalem to celebrate the feast of Passover. Afterward the family caravan was headed back to Nazareth, and after a day's travel, Mary and Joseph realized that Jesus was not in their company. He had stayed behind to hear and question the teachers in the temple.
"And when his parents saw him, they were astonished. And his mother said to him, 'Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress.' And he said to them, 'Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?'"
And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them. And his mother treasured up all these things in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man" (Luke 2:48-49; 51-51 ESV).
This is the time of year when we take lots and lots of photos and videos of our children and grandchildren, dressed as little lambs in Christmas pageants, opening gifts under twinkling trees, or building snowmen with cousins that they haven't seen in a while. We want to hold on to those wonderful memories. But Mary didn't have the latest iPhone, or Facebook or Instagram. As she treasured up the memories of her precious, precocious Son in the chambers of her heart, did she know that he would one day become the Savior of the world?
The modern Christmas carol "Mary did you know?" - written in 1984 by Mark Lowry and Buddy Greene - helps us imagine what it might have been like for sweet Mary, still a very young woman herself, to understand the importance of what was taking place in that lowly stable 2000 years ago. Did she know? Could she possibly have had any idea who her infant Son would grow up to be?
Have you ever heard about The Song of Mary, also known as The Magnificat? The gospel of Luke says that the archangel Gabriel had come to announce to the young virgin that although she had never known a man, she would bear a Son who would be conceived of the Holy Spirit. That her Son would be the Son of God, our Savior. When this prophecy had been fulfilled in her, Mary went to visit her elder cousin Elizabeth whose pregnancy had also been foretold by the angel, and who was six months pregnant with John the Baptist. When the two mothers met they were immediately filled with the Holy Spirit, the babies leaped for joy, and Elizabeth prophesied over Mary, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!" (Luke 1:1-42 ESV). Then Mary praised God and prophesied:
“My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
And his mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
and exalted those of humble estate;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
as he spoke to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his offspring forever.” (Luke 1:46b-55 ESV)
Did Mary know that her baby boy would one day walk on water? Probably not. But she knew, Beloveds. She knew because as he did with Isaiah, who prophesied about the coming Messiah:
"For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace" (Isaiah 9:6 ESV).
the Holy Spirit inspired Mary with the vision that her infant Son would one day be the Savior for the whole world.
In our Pentacostal tradition, we do not worship anyone but God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit (Deuteronomy 6:4). But, especially during the Christmas season, we can certainly call Mary the mother of our Lord and Savior, blessed; and those of us who have been blessed to be mothers and grandmothers can relate to her. She was a woman, like we are. She had joy and sorrow, like we do. She prayed over her children, and she fussed over them. I love Mary, and I am grateful for her. And one day, when I meet her in heaven and we share the stories we've treasured up in our hearts as mothers, I will thank her for the part she played - not only in the Christmas story, but in all our stories. I'm so grateful that her answer to God's annunciation was: "...Behold I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word..." (Luke 1:38b ESV). May we all be so humble and obedient!
I pray that you and your loved ones have a Blessed and Merry Christmas!
*To enjoy the song, Mary Did You Know? sung by CeeLo Green: watch the video and get the
lyrics at: https://binged.it/2RWOCHL
* To listen to J.S. Bach's Magnificat, please go to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QQAWqqaUTHE&t=71s
*For more information on the painting, The Holy Night by Carlo Maratta, above:
- Many thanks to my dear friend, Wendy, for the inspiration for this post, with much love!
The Twelve Days of Christmas – links.
Hello Beloved Friends and Merry Christmas,
We hope you enjoy and God Bless!
To read the entire series, click on day one, then follow the links at the bottom right of each page.
All scriptures are from the English Standard Version translation.