I would imagine most of you have some Christmas decorations up and out already. If not, well what are you waiting for? It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Come join the party. Most of you have a tree by now, and there are lights going up all over neighborhoods and retail stores. I have even received a couple of Christmas cards in the mail. And quite a few of you have a nativity scene somewhere in your home. It has probably has a little stable or barn, with some shepherds, sheep, wise men, and an angel. Then there is Mary and Joseph, and of course the baby in a manger — Jesus, the son of God.
I love nativity scenes. Even though they can be a little too clean and sterile compared to the reality of the first Christmas, I still find them to be warm and inviting. It is as if I hear a voice speaking from the manger, “Come closer! Come near to me.”
This truly is the invitation of Christ’s manger. God could not stand for there to be distance between himself and humanity any longer. Sin left us broken, damaged and exiled from the presence of God. God gave humanity his law and commandments, but they just revealed how bad our problem of sin really happens to be. No matter how hard we try, we continue to break the commandments of God. Finally heaven came down in person because God wanted to deal with the problem of sin and end our separation.
Due to our sin, God was not with us and not for us. He stood opposed to our sin, and we were under the penalty of his judgment. Scripture makes clear that sin always separates us from our Heavenly Father.
Then Christmas came! All throughout the Old Testament, God warned his people of the consequences of our sin and disobedience. At the same time, however, God made many promises — promises to send a Messiah who would save us, change us, forgive us, heal us and restore us.
The Lord spoke about our brokenness and separation, but promised a time was coming when people would know him personally — when we would be his people and he would be our God. These promises spoke of a restoration between God and his people where we could draw close to God once again.
The first chapter of Matthew records part of the birth narrative of Jesus. The angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph encouraging him to stay with Mary and take her as his wife. The angel assured Joseph that her pregnancy was not an immoral indiscretion but a supernatural God thing. He spoke of this child and revealed he was one who God had spoken of all throughout scripture. The angel declared, “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus because he will save his people from their sins. All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet, ‘The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel’ which means ‘God with us.’” (Matthew 1:22, 23)
Jesus literally means “one who saves.” Jesus came to save his people from their sin. His innocent life and sacrificial death in our place would allow us to experience forgiveness and grace and bring us home again.
Sin removed us from the presence of God, but Jesus came to save us and restore us again.
He also was to be called “Immanuel” which means “God with us.” Isaiah prophesied this about Jesus 750 years before he would come. And now he had come. Jesus was God’s touch to become up close and personal again. This baby in a manger was actually God in the flesh. It was not just some commandments and a cloud above the tabernacle. It not was no longer just a voice speaking through the prophets.
This child was not just a messenger from God, but he was and is God. And he beckons us to come close. This bigger than life God became personal enough for you to get your arms around him — and his arms around you.
Come closer to this child, and you will find yourself in the arms of God. And that’s the Word.
The Rev. David Yarborough is pastor of St. Simons Community Church. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 912-634-2960.