Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Immanuel . . . Alive Through Us!

The day after Christmas I got a Christian magazine in the mail with a purple cover and lead ins about New Years Resolutions, and not a drop of red or green on it, nor a mention of Christmas. As I drove down Vine Street in Paso Robles (a very decorated street for Christmas!) two nights ago some people were already taking down their Christmas decorations. There is nothing wrong with any of that, it just sort of jars me because I work so hard to wrap my heart around the majesty and awe and wonder of Christmas and all that is wrapped up in our God of wonder who holds a universe in His hand coming to earth, and it sometimes seems like there isn't even a slow descent from a Christmas focus afterwards, but rather a plunge off of a cliff!

There are, actually, many aspects of Christmas that never end and which we should rejoice in and celebrate and participate in all year long. For instance, every day you enjoy your salvation you enjoy the Christmas message proclaimed by the angel to the shepherds, which is the good news of great joy of a Savior. Then there is our role in the unfolding eternal plan of God which was initiated with Jesus' birth and which we participate in by spreading the Gospel until the day of His return—a day all the hosts of hell can not stop! Every day you follow God's lead and share the good news of a Savior you share the Christmas message and participate in the "Christmas plan" of saving a people until He returns.

Then there is the one I find most stunning to me given my intimate awareness of my failings. It is the role I play in the continuance of Immanuel, which means, "God With Us." At its most basic level Immanuel obviously refers to Jesus (God) being born of a woman and living among us. Then there is the continuance of it in which the Holy Spirit comes and dwells in us as our Comforter, Counselor, Helper, and seal of our adoption as God's children. But, then there is the natural extension of that which really causes me to step back and evaluate my life and how I live it, and the priorities I choose for it.

I am a part of the body of Christ. I am His hands and feet. While He operates sovereignly at times, He very often chooses to wait until His children (His body) are obedient to do His will. I, as God's adopted child, indwelt by His presence, serving as His hands and feet, am His vessel for bringing about His will and for showing Him to the world. Just as Jesus represented the Father on earth and was His image and modeled Him for the world, Jesus then sent us as the Father sent Him. As His disciples we are to walk as He walked. More than that, we carry His presence. We are the new dwelling place (temple) of God.

Stop and let that melt in to your heart for a moment. If you are a Christian, you carry the presence and image of God in to a lost world around you. You bring His presence and power with you wherever you go, you have the access to His wisdom and favor those around you need, and your actions should show them the love and forgiveness and servanthood and authority and power He embodies. You are His child, you are being transformed in to His image, you carry His name, you exercise His authority, He tells you the secrets of His heart, He beckons you to hear His voice and carry out His will—you are His body, you are the vessel He chooses to use.

You are, in a sense, to the lost around you, Immanuel. Now don't take that wrong, or blasphemously, because that is not how it is intended. We are not God, but we carry God with us. We are not God, but we reflect His image. We are not God, but we reveal God and point people to God. As His children, in whom He dwells, when we are with a person who is lost He is with us so He is, inherently, with them! You have brought to them the presence of God in you, and you are His hands and feet and mouth to follow His leading and show them His ways and speak His prophetic words to them. So, in that sense, which is humbling and awe inspiring, God has chosen you and I to continue Immanuel. Every time you carry the presence of God in to someone's "space" you live out the Christmas message of God with them. I don't know why God chooses to use frail vessels for such an awesome job, but He does, and it is pretty amazing to think that through me the Christmas message is lived out tangibly and physically every day I am among people who are lost. May every day of the year His presence in me, and my surrender to Him and His will, draw them to Him—the great Savior whom Christmas proclaims.

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