Christmas: Immanuel, God with us, the Infinite Creator stepping into History
The Christmas story, the birth of Jesus as recorded in Matthew is very special. Matthew interestingly starts the New Testament with a long genealogy, a recording of the great lineage of Israel, a human history leading up to the birth of Jesus. Matthew says, this person was the father of that person who was the father of the next person and so on. All of them had human fathers, but Jesus was born of the HS
In the early church, believers were questioned about the birth of Jesus recorded in Matthew a lot. They questioned the nature of Jesus. They questioned whether God impregnating Mary means that Jesus is some sort of half-God half-human? This is similar to Greek mythology, where gods came down all the time, had children with women. Obviously, this was fantasy and myth, but they applied the same to the this recording of Jesus.
Therefore, the church had to explain this further, that Jesus is fully man and fully God. Theologically, the term is “hypostatic union”, it’s the union of Christ’s humanity and divinity. In Jesus, it’s not that he’s half-man, half-God – He is fully man and fully God. This understanding was important for setting the basis of Christology for early church and the foundation Christianity.
Think about it from the perspective of those spiritually seeking at the time. On one hand, you have the fantastical myths and legends in Greek and Roman gods that made you dream of a different world, but then, there is no basis in reality of what I can see in my daily life. On the other hand, you have Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, all sorts of New Age/Pagan religions that says you must do this and that to become God, to be a deity, to achieve that ultimate goal. But again, there is no basis in reality, achieving that goal to be God is impossible. We are not God, we could never be, we’re too frail, and too imperfect. God is too holy, too pure, too righteous, too perfect
Therefore, it’s only in Christianity that it’s not about becoming God, it’s about having a relationship with Him. We could never become God, so that is why God had to become man. God’s son stepped down from his throne in heaven, came to this earth and became a man. And so in Jesus, who is fully God and fully man, we might have a relationship with God. That is what Christmas Day is – the coming of Jesus to this world so that we have a relationship with God
I think that is why Christmas is so appealing to a broad spectrum of people, both Christian and non-Christian, that Christmas is about relationships. Even non-Christians know that Christmas is about our relationships with our loved ones. The Christmas shopping season is huge, with so many people buying toys for their kids, gifts for their loved ones. Everyone knows Christmas is about being with loved ones, sharing in relationship with others
There’s something so deeply human about having a relationship with another person. Isn’t that the most important part of our humanity, of our human experience? It’s that our life here in this world, a huge part of the human experience is that we can have a relationships with another person.
In today’s passage, the Christmas story is a story of human relationships, especially Joseph here. When you look in Matthew 1:19-20, 24-25, you see Joseph, this good man knew when Mary got pregnant and it wasn’t by him. Think about it, if it happened today, any man would be shocked, so even more so back then.
When you read between the lines, it makes you really think about Jesus’ upbringing and family. Mary was pregnant before they got married, so in a tight knit community, people must have known. Joseph was shocked also, but had compassion for Mary and wanted to separate from her in a decent and right way. But then the angel explained it to him, that it wasn’t what he thought and Mary was pregnant by the Holy Spirit. So Joseph faithfully listened, followed and built a large family with Jesus and many children.
When I read the Bible, I think there must be a reason why Jesus was born in this specific family. Jesus was brought up by this compassionate human father. That relationship that Jesus had with Joseph and his family certainly helped shaped him. This is obviously true if you see that the parables of Jesus were from his own life experience, so how much more unwritten influence did Jesus’ family have on his life?
The Christmas story is also one of a deep family relationship here today because our family relationships can influence us. Think about your life if you had a different mother or father, you would completely different. One person can make a tremendous impact on your life. People have become doctors, businessman, or pastors due to relationships they had with the right mentor. Our relationships, our family relationships shape who we are. Jesus’ family relationship and upbringing influenced who Jesus was. When you think about the fully man part of Jesus, there is something so human about that.
That is exactly what Christmas is all about – God wanted to have a relationship with us. Through Jesus, a human, that mankind could have a relationship with God. That way, we could live with our lives being shaped by our relationship with God. Faith is not about our human lives becoming a deity and trying to become God. Faith is our human lives having a relationship with God and through Jesus that is possible.
We were sinner who couldn’t have a relationship with God, but Jesus made it possible for us sinners to be restored. In Matthew 1:21, it clearly speaks about this. When we were sinners, there was no way for us to go to God. We are natural of this earth and there is no way to touch the divine. There is this infinite chasm between the human and the divine.
But in Jesus, we have someone who is both fully man and fully divine. That is a paradox. Do you know what a paradox is? It is something that contradicts itself, goes against itself. That Jesus is fully man and fully divine, doesn’t that seem to contradict itself? How can in one person be fully man and fully divine? By our understanding, the flesh and divine being one, is contradictory.
That contradiction may be difficult to understand, but in actuality, we are living paradoxes as well. Paul DeVries, a theologian and professor wrote this:
“The divine paradox of Christmas is partly represented in the paradox of our humanity. All we humans are remarkably similar to the animals while being profoundly spiritual at the same time. We humans are solidly earthly in body chemistry, while we are simultaneously personally conscious and also eternally spiritual – able to reflect on both body and soul. We all are so much more than our body chemistry. And all is good: Each human body is originally good, personally crafted by God, and each human spirit is originally good, personally breathed into us by God, too. Put these two wholes together, and each of us is a walking wonder, a marvelous miracle, and a profound paradox.”
What he is trying to say is that there is that same paradox inside of us as well also. We have flesh, the human body, but we also have spirit breathed into us and both of these were given by God. The spirit and flesh are both in us as one – we are living, breathing paradoxes.
I think this is an interesting reflection on Christmas, about what Christmas even means in History. We were created in the image of God, so our Spirit originally should have a relationship with God. But we fell, we were sinners, we ran away, we fell into the world, the natural, and lost the spiritual. We were created a paradox and were lost in that paradox, away from spiritual and towards flesh
Jesus Christ came into this world, a paradox of humanity and divinity to restore our paradox. We who were sinners, Jesus saved us from that sin to have relationship with God. Jesus is the mediator and the one who truly brought us back to God. We couldn’t do it on our own, no matter what we tried to do, we couldn’t go to God. Our own insufficiencies, our own imperfections, our own sin was a never able to go to God.
Adam fell, the floods were sent in time of Noah, Israelites wandered into the desert, and later eventually fell into slavery Babylon. No matter what mankind did, we could not go to God because there was an infinite chasm. It was an infinite chasm that mankind had by its own sin and just couldn’t cross to the divine. That is why God had to come to us because we couldn’t go to him.
When you really think about this impossible chasm between man and God makes you really appreciate the life of Jesus and the Christmas event even more. I was doing some deep reflection on this when I recently reading scientific article. Did you know that time is the most precise physical quantity that physicist can measure? Physicist measuring length of atom so tiny is not precise or something large like our planet to another in the galaxy is very hard to do. But time moves at a constant tick rate, so physicist can measure time very precisely.
The fastest we think about time is the “speed of life” – seconds, minutes right? But physicist use atoms, microscopic movements to measure time. Things so tiny on an atomic level move so quickly and it’s beyond comprehension how fast it moves. Conversely, there is whole order of time beyond us that is difficult to comprehend on universal scale. We think about things terms of 100 years of life, but universe, scientists say is 13.8 Billion years old.
Think about how God works over such a long period of time and how quickly God works in such a microscopic way as well also. When you compare that to what we think and comprehend, there is no comparison and we can’t comprehend.
God’s domain is the eternal domain, our domain for us mankind is the temporal domain. Crossing from our temporal to the God’s eternal domain is impossible threshold. Mentally, we try to grasp it – we say God is eternal, Jesus gives us eternal life. Sometimes, we might even think that eternity just means “a lot more time”. But that is not how eternity works, it’s not just a lot more time that God has.
When we say God is eternal, it means God is on an entirely different order completely. God and Eternity is infinitely removed from what we are familiar with. Of course I’m not trying to say that God just created the world, left it to be. But the way God works in this world is beyond our comprehension
Paul Julienne – a Christian physicist wrote this:
“God is not only infinitely distinct from the universe but, as the overflowing fullness and ground of all being, is intimately present and interior to everything in it. God continually sustains the universe in existence in all times and places and has his own proper mode of activity and causality with respect to the world—not as a cause-among-causes as another ‘being’ in the universe, not even as a ‘supreme being’. He is something altogether different.”
Some of you might think giving a scientific example on Christmas may detract from the Christmas message. But for me, I think Christmas is exactly the moment to think about depth of God’s eternity. God’s ways and how God works are so much higher and on a completely different level than us. We who live in this world could never hope to imagine crossing threshold into divine/eternal. That is why God had to come to us, there was no way for us to go to God.
God had to create a moment in time for Him to come to us. So many things, the long and short of time, came together for this moment. That moment in time, the intersection of time/eternity, God/world, divine/human – is Jesus Christ
Looking at Matthew 1:22-23 – What is Christmas? Christmas is that the day we celebrate the fact that over 2000 years ago, the infinite creator God stepped into history. He reached down through His infinite power, majesty, might, and glory and touched this world. He touched this world at that the moment when that newborn baby, wrapped/swaddled, completely helpless, and crying in that manger. He was fully God and He was fully man – that is Jesus
Immanuel, it means God with us. God is with us. The infinite creator stepped down through eternal history to a special moment in time through His son Jesus Christ on that Christmas Day. From that point on, Jesus grew and lived for 30 years before beginning ministry. The Lord called his disciples, performed miracles, spread the Word of God, lived the Word of God. After 3 years of ministry, the Lord took up the cross for our sins and 3 days later rose again
Christmas was the beginning of very special time in history when God was with us. From the billions of years this universe was created and the billions of years to come, it was this moment when Jesus came to us on Christmas that was special. It was a time that we could touch, feel, listen, watch, and learn from Jesus. And that through a relationship with Jesus, we could restore our relationship with God.
Christmas is the joy in that relationship between the Creator God and us, His creation. Christmas – it’s the end of the year, New Year is right around the corner. Of course in the New Year, we think about goals and what we’re going to accomplish. But Christmas is a time, to think about that moment in time when Jesus was born, he saved us and restored that relationship with God
Christmas is pure joy, joy to God, joy to us, joy to the world. How great was God’s joy when Jesus came to this earth? That in all of eternity and all of time, we have this moment when God is with us. Christmas is about taking pure joy in the relationship we have with God through Jesus. I hope the joy of Christmas, we can have that pure joy in our lives. Let us celebrate with that in our hearts, together on this Christmas – Immanuel, God with us