Mary and Joseph have been traveling for a couple of days. It’s so hard. The days are sweltering; the nights are cold. The wind hasn’t stopped. It’s just that time of year. Why are we doing this? Why are we trying so hard to do the right thing?
The truth is, “God With Us? ” is just sometimes a little uncomfortable. How can we comfortably live our lives with Emmanuel hanging around? I mean, really, what are we supposed to do? I saw a bumper sticker several years ago that said, “God is coming; Look busy!” You laugh (because, granted, it’s funny!), but isn’t that what many of us think deep down? No matter what we say intellectually (that God is with us, that God is everywhere, that God is everything), the truth is that we STILL sort of think of God as some sort of far-away supervisor that is “up there” keeping score of our lives.
Maybe that’s the point! Maybe Emmanuel, God With Us, means that we ARE to get busy, that we ARE supposed to do something. Maybe God just got tired of being relegated to scorekeeper and wanted to show us how to play the game! The miracle of God’s coming is not about a manger, or a star, or a baby. It’s not about whether or not Mary was a literal virgin or not! (Really, does it matter that much?) And it’s DEFINITELY not about making sure that we buy each person the same number of presents! The miracle of God’s coming is that the Divine, conceived as removed and secure from the muck of the world, poured into our midst. God came that the world might change and that we might change along with it.
So do I know Jesus Christ as my personal savior? (OK, I’ll probably get in trouble here!) God didn’t come in the form of Jesus to be my brother, or my friend, or even my personal savior. God came for the sake of the world. God came bursting into the struggles of this world so that people like me would wake up, recollect myself, and go forward to do what God calls me to do. God came that we might be for the other. In all truth, the meaning of Emmanuel, God With Us, is that God’s coming means that it is time for us to go to others, to the world, to wherever God is calling us to go. God’s coming is our call to going. We hear it over and over in the Scriptures that will come after this story as the child grows and enters ministry–“rise, take up your bed and go home,” “you give them something to eat,” “love your enemies,” “let your light shine,” “love one another,” “take, eat,” “they know not what they do.” These are as much a part of the Christmas story as “in those days, a decree went out…”, or “laid in a manger,” or “no room in the inn.” In fact, this is the way that Emmanuel comes over and over and over again. God came to us as “fully human” and yet still remains as “fully divine.” Both are made in the image of God, the image of the God’s unfailing and unfathomable grace in the world.
So, is Jesus my personal savior? For the sake of the world, I pray so. It’s not about being on my best behavior; it’s about birthing the Savior of the world into the world for the world.
Lift up your heads, ye mighty gate; behold the King of glory waits;
the King of kings is drawing near; the Savior of the world is here.
Fling wide the portals of your heart; make it a temple, set apart
from earthly use for heaven’s employ, adorned with prayer and love and joy.
Redeemer, come, with us abide; our hearts to thee we open wide;
let us thy inner presence feel; thy grace and love in us reveal.
Thy Holy Spirit lead us on until our glorious goal is won;
eternal praise, eternal fame be offered, Savior, to thy name.
Grace and Peace,