Which is harder: To say that God is everywhere, or that God has become a human being? Is it easier to say that God is far away or very near?
What is harder to believe: That God is everywhere, or that God is one of us?
Philosophers go for the low-hanging fruit and pick the former rather than the latter. But if God is everywhere, then there is nowhere He can be found. God becomes abstract, like a force or a feeling. In times of trouble, it is very hard to find that sort of a god. Like moments of joy, such a god slips quickly through our fingers.
It is harder to say that God became one of us. This means that God is close. To say it in the way of Dr. Martin Luther (not King Jr.): He is so near that He cannot be any nearer.
Jesus, the God-man, makes us think differently about God. God has come into our world. He is not up there somewhere — we are unsure where. He has come through a uterus, been washed and diapered.
He has cried and felt cold, pain and joy. He drank wine. He worked, sweated, grew tired, slept. He has eaten, been annoyed, felt the sting of rejection and ridicule. God has become one of us. God has done all these things, and all these things have happened to God. Jesus is God near us.
This offends. Philosophers prefer the god who is far away — and everyone can be such a philosopher. No college degree is required.
But the God who is near, Jesus, will not be pushed far away. He becomes one of us to be most near us in every part of our lives. He is like us and, therefore, knows us. Although God is no sinner, He takes our sins on Himself and dies for them on a cross. In that moment, God is the most sinful of us all. God dies in our flesh, His flesh. He is come in our flesh to save those who have flesh, those who suffer from their flesh and those who sin in their flesh. He does this because of His compassion for those who are like Him. God is a great lover of sinners. That’s Jesus.
The Scriptures testify to this. Join us in listening to God’s Word as it tells us that in Jesus, God walks among us.
God tents among us
The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14).
In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a town in Judah, and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.”
(Luke 1:39–45 ESV)
The word “Lord” is a euphemism for YHWH, the divine name of God. What is Elizabeth saying by calling Mary the mother of her Lord?
Meditation: Press this child, born of the Virgin Mary, who is also God’s son, close to your heart. When you have gotten this, then you are secure and well-protected against all the treacherous ambushes and dangerous attacks of the Devil. If you let this child, born of the Virgin Mary, out of your sight and in the meantime give in to speculation to understand the Divine, you will never recognize God. Believe me in this because I have also been to this school where I thought I was among the angels but found myself much more among devils. Learn to be wise from my misfortune and come down here with the Son who descended for this reason to you so that you would recognize God in him. “Wherever I am,” he says, “there my servant shall also be.” (John 12:26)
Martin Luther, Walch Edition, Vol. 6, p. 186
God is born
Christ is born in Bethlehem!
Read Luke 2:1-21, paying special close attention to the angels’ song.
In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.
(Luke 2:1–21 ESV)
Why would the angels give glory to God over a newborn baby?
In verse 11, the angels announce to the shepherds that the child is born “for you.” Why would they bother to emphasize for whom the child was born? Is this birth only for shepherds, or is it also for you?
Meditation: Now get this whoever can. I will say it once again: God lets this child be born for those who are damned and lost. Therefore reach out your hand and receive and say, “I am certainly godless and wicked, there is nothing good in me, only pure vice, sin, blasphemy, death, devil and hellfire. But against all of these I set this baby, whom the Virgin Mary holds in her lap and at her breast. Because it is born for me so that it should be my treasure, I therefore take this child and set it against everything I lack. I am neither reputable nor faithful, so I find in this baby pure goodness and faithfulness. If there is nothing but death and misfortune in me, then I find in this child life and everything that is good. And this is so certain it is as if I can see it now already before me with my own eyes.” This is what it means to receive: When we make use of this treasure by our faith (in Him).
Martin Luther, Walch Edition, Volume 13b, p. 2594 (from the German)
God dies, God rises
When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe and said, “Truly this was the Son of God!” (Matt. 27:54)
Read Exodus 3:13-15 (below)
Then Moses said to God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations.”
(Exodus 3:13–15 ESV)
Then read John 18:1–11, taking careful note of verses 5 and 6 (see below).
When Jesus had spoken these words, he went out with his disciples across the Kidron Valley, where there was a garden, which he and his disciples entered. Now Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place, for Jesus often met there with his disciples. So Judas, having procured a band of soldiers and some officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees, went there with lanterns and torches and weapons. Then Jesus, knowing all that would happen to him, came forward and said to them, “Whom do you seek?” They answered him, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus said to them, “I am he.” Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them. When Jesus said to them, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground. So he asked them again, “Whom do you seek?” And they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus answered, “I told you that I am he. So, if you seek me, let these men go.” This was to fulfill the word that he had spoken: “Of those whom you gave me I have lost not one.” Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant and cut off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus.) So Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword into its sheath; shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?”
(John 18:1–11 ESV)
Why did the guards fall down before Christ as they went to arrest Him? What does it mean that Jesus uses the phrase so many times in John’s Gospel? For some examples, see John 4:26; 6:20; 6:35; 8:12; 10:7; 10:11; 13:19; 14:6; 15:1. This list is not exhaustive.
Finally, what does it mean when Jesus says He is the great I AM who is the resurrection and the life (see John 11:25-26 below)?
“Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?””
(John 11:25–26 ESV)
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