GOD WITH US: Advent 2016
When we stop long enough between singing carols and sipping cocoa to think about what we’re actually celebrating at Christmas—the incarnation of Christ, the eternal Son of God leaving the glory of heaven to take on human flesh and dwell with his people—we realize how truly strange Christmas is.
There is a God in heaven who not only made us, but wants to be with us. And who not only wants to be with us, but actually came down to be born as a baby and live among us. The Son of God took humanity into his divinity and dwelt with his people on earth. As the Gospel of Matthew tells us, Jesus is Immanuel—God with us. (Matt. 1:23; cf. Isa. 7:14).
Yet as strange as this sounds, the idea that God wants to come down and be with his people is not really new. In fact, it’s central to the biblical story. We’ve seen it recently in our series through Exodus. When God reveals his name to Moses—I AM who I AM—at the heart of his name is his desire and plan to be with his people (“I AM with you,” 3:12; cf. 3:14-15; 4:12, 15). “I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians” (3:8). Later we’ll see his holy presence descend on Mount Sinai as he makes a covenant with Israel (19:18; 24:15-18). He’ll give detailed instructions for Israel to build a tabernacle: “And let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell in their midst” (25:8; cf. chs. 25-31). The book concludes with the glory of the LORD filling the tabernacle (40:34-38). As Exodus 29:45-46 summarizes, “I will dwell among the people of Israel and will be their God. And they shall know that I am the LORD their God, who brought them out of the land of Egypt that I might dwell among them.”
So there is a very real sense in which Christmas—the incarnation—is a fulfillment of Exodus—God’s desire to dwell with his people.
But it’s bigger than Exodus. God’s desire to dwell with his people is one of the most consistent themes of the entire biblical story. From his presence with Adam and Eve in the garden, to his presence with Israel through the tabernacle and later the temple, to the filling of the church with his Spirit on Pentecost, to the promise of a new heavens and new earth where “the dwelling place of God is with man” (Rev. 21:3)—God’s intention is to be with his people. And the climax of that desire, the centerpiece of his grand plan, what ultimately makes it possible for a holy God to dwell with sinful people, is the incarnation of Jesus Christ.
She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel’ (which means, God with us). (Matt. 1:21-23)
Join us Sunday mornings this Advent season as we marvel over the God who is with us.
- Nov. 27: The First Temple (Gen. 2:4-17)
- Dec. 4: The Old Temple (1 Kings 8:1-11)
- Dec. 11: The Empty Temple (Ezekiel 10)
- Dec. 18: The True Temple (John 1:1-18)
- Dec. 25: The New Temple (Ephesians 2:11-22)