“Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name ‘Immanuel,’ which is translated, ‘God with us.’” – The Gospel According to Matthew 1:23
I’m writing this just before Thanksgiving. Normally by this time of the year, I’ve listened to Christmas music for 2-3 weeks. Today is the first day I’ve listened to Christmas music in 2020.
One of the blessings of God for which I’m thankful is the music of Christmastime. Most of the Christmas hymns are among my favorites. I also enjoy some secular Christmas music, especially when it’s performed by Mannheim Steamroller or Trans-Siberian Orchestra. We’ll come back to discussing Christmas music.
When I was young, my parents took us kids to the shopping mall where a poorly disguised Santa Claus would ask me what I wanted for Christmas. I’d be so scatter-brained; I’d say something I didn’t even want! You know what my answer would be if I were asked that question this year? I’d ask for a unified congregation. To paraphrase the Christmas jingle, all I want for Christmas is my church family back (I’m not that concerned about my two front teeth)!
Many churches have been devastated because of corona virus, both the virus and the response. And, unfortunately, Trinity Church is not exempt from the fallout. In the last 8 ½ months, we’ve lost dear loved ones to death. We’ve lost others because they’ve moved away from the local area. I’m afraid we’ve also lost some due to a spiritual torpor that has developed from a breakdown in remaining faithful to spiritual disciplines like regular participation in worship (in person or virtual). Then, there’s the “pink elephant” in the room – the conflict between those who believe we should wear face coverings when we gather and those who do not. No other time have I witnessed a piece of cloth across one’s face have such a demoralizing impact on a people united together.
Here’s a gentle exhortation. My friends, we are on the same side, which is especially true of those who hold membership in Trinity Church. We must be “for” each other, despite our differences with each other. We must not let the evil one tear us apart over anything.
As I’ve pondered that exhortation, I’m reminded that Jesus is for us. That’s what Romans 8:31 teaches, “Since God is for us, who can be against us?” That is a true statement for believers in Jesus Christ. And, Jesus is God, so He is for each and every one of His people.
Not only is Jesus for us, Jesus is in us! This is I John 4:4, “…He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” The Apostle John wrote that to Christians who already were dealing with a spirit of Antichrist. Though the false teaching had its toll on the church, they would persevere.
Finally, just as Jesus is for us and is in us, Jesus is with us! So says the Gospel According to Matthew 1:23, quoting Isaiah 7:14 at the head of this article. Further, the Gospel According to John 1:14 teaches, “And the Word (Jesus) became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”
One of the great Christmas hymns is “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.” Its opening stanza follows:
“O Come, O Come Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel,
that mourns in lonely exile here, until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.”
Because Jesus appeared in coming to earth in human vesture that first Christmas, He lived for us while also living with us. He is still Emmanuel, God with us. And, because He is Emmanuel, any and every thing is absolutely possible because nothing is too hard for God. He is able to bring us back together, despite our fractures, divisions, and differences.
That restoration is the longing of my weary, bruised heart. Though we differ in many ways, we are one in – and with – Jesus. Meantime, I look forward to Sunday; I hope you do, too. And, I wish you a joyous and merry Christmas – Pastor Daren