God With Us (Immanuel)

This text from John 1 is something of the foundation of the idea of God joining us in Jesus Christ.  That is, the incarnation.  John’s gospel is the only one that addresses incarnation head on and thus John is something of an odd Gospel.  John’s approach to pretty much everything is different than Matthew, Mark, and Luke.  We call those three the synoptic gospels because they have a similar pattern while varying a little bit on the stories and the details.  Conversely, the gospel of John has a few of the same stories but is an entirely different approach.  Thus, it is from John that among other things, we get the incarnation of God, the Word, becoming flesh and living among us in Christ Jesus.

Which means that Jesus, a real live human being, was also God.  Certainly fully human.  But also this strange thing, Jesus was fully divine.  I still think it is a little bit of an odd idea, Jesus being fully human and fully divine, fully a man while at the same time fully God.  That’s incarnation.  As confusing and bizarre as the idea is, it is important to give some thought about what incarnation really means for us.  When it comes to getting ready for Christmas we think about decorating trees, opening Christmas presents and if you’re like me, eating Christmas cookies.  All worthy thoughts, of course.  Especially the cookies.  But as we think of Jesus in the manger we must also think about God in the manger as well.

We have a tendency to think of God as out there in the heavens, somewhere.  And indeed, God is in heaven, but God is also with us.  God is with us in the right here and right now.  God is with us in the right here and right now because of the incarnation.  The divine God is out in the heavens but the human God in Christ is with us, too.  Which begs the question, if God is with us, then who else do we NEED?  Wanting someone else to be with us is one thing but from it’s most literal sense, who do we NEED?  Freed from the idea that from the core of our being we NEED someone beside God, we can be available to those we want to be with.

Now, conversely, if we take it on faith and recognize that God is with us then things change.   We change.  We become the way that God becomes tangible for others.  As we are transformed by the Holy Spirit, others see God in and through us.  We become the light of Christ, visible to others. We’re not the light but the way others can see the light. This world is in serious need of people able to see and experience God in their lives.  This world is in serious need of people who can shine the light of Christ.

But this doesn’t happen so much if we’re so busy doing all the things we’re in the middle of.  Take a second and think about all the things you’ve needed to do in the past 48 hours.  What does that list look like?  Is it a long, involved list?  Did it include time talking with people or was it a list of tasks needed to be done in order to celebrate the birth of our savior?

Here’s an example.  Friday is my day off so I’m in Omaha doing some of the pre Christmas tasks.  Finished up earlier than planned so I called a buddy up to see if he had time to grab a beer. We text about every day but don’t see each other very often.  He had the time so we had a beer.  Which made me wonder why I didn’t schedule the conversation first and worry about the tasks later.  I know which one I enjoy more.

Advent is a good reminder that we really should spend more time waiting rather than being in the middle of something.  Kind of like we should spend more time listening than talking.  The doing of the things can be fun and there are any number of things we should be doing. We should also balance the doing of the things with allowing ourselves to wait for things.

Another part of that reality is that if we’re always doing something, even if it is something we know God wants us to do, then we never allow ourselves time to wait for God’s direction.  If we’re always pushing forward with some new thing we’ll miss out on God’s guidance and direction.

All of which helps us be present.  Present with those around us and present with God.  Have you ever been talking with someone or just around someone who you were pretty sure wasn’t listening to what you were saying or even if you were even in the same room?  I think I’m supposed insert a joke about preaching about now.

Really though, how do we feel about being with someone who isn’t engaged with us?  How do we feel about someone who is in the same room but on a different planet?  It very rarely increases the positive things about our relationship.  Ask yourselves this.  Has your Advent season brought you closer to others and to God?  Or has being in the middle of something become the habit and has gotten in the way?  This isn’t the only time of year this is the case but Advent’s purpose is to get us to slow down and wait on occasion.  Advent is our push back to having Christmas displays out at the store by the end of August.  There’s nothing inherently wrong with having Christmas displays out early but they’re symptomatic of our need to rush things

Plus, this idea of waiting and listening isn’t something that we bring out in November with the Christmas lights and put away on Tuesday.  First off, the season of Christmas STARTS tomorrow and lasts through epiphany on January 6.  That’s twelve days of Christmas, for those counting.  Anyways, waiting and listening isn’t an Advent practice and put back on the shelf with the Christmas lights.  It’s something we practice in Advent so we remember to do it the rest of the year.

Being present with others.  Hearing what they are saying instead of rushing by in a whirlwind of busy things.  Being present with God.  Hearing what God is saying instead of rushing by in a whirlwind of busy things. Being present with God with us.  Immanuel.

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