What a delight to have guest blogger Carrie Vipperman join us again this week. While she juggles her family of five, a writing career, and all things Christmas, Carrie still takes the time to meditate on the depth of the holiday. She’s the real deal. I’m sure after reading you will agree.
A few years ago on a Sunday in December, our children came home from church with a simple manger scene: a baby doll made from a light brown sock wrapped in a felt blanket resting in a brown paper grocery bag with its sides rolled down. They rocked baby Jesus, sang to Him, and kept coming back all day long to make sure He was safely tucked in. So, it was only natural later that week that my youngest grabbed her baby, looked at me as we were leaving the house, and said,
“Baby Jesus goes with us.”
After all, we talk about Jesus all the time in our house as we read them Bible stories, and we talk with Jesus all the time as we pray throughout our day. So, now that she had her very own baby Jesus, she wanted to be physically with Him at all times. In her literal brain, she was just telling me that she was bringing her new doll with us as we ran our errands. However, that statement is true for those in Christ, whether we have a piece of our nativity set tucked into our pockets or not. Jesus was and is Immanuel, God with us.
As promised by the prophets, He physically came, lived, and died on the earth. But, then He was resurrected, and His children were given the Holy Spirit, God dwelling within, who Jesus said was even better than His physical presence and far closer than that baby doll tucked underneath my daughter’s arm.
That simple baby doll gave my family just a glimpse of what Immanuel, God with us, means. Just as my daughter took her baby Jesus with her, as children of God, we take Him with us everywhere we go. As we grow in our relationship with God throughout the year, we are continually experiencing who Immanuel is, in essence preparing ourselves for Christmas all year long, even without the decorations, gifts, and holiday activities.
Because, to truly see the miraculous beauty of that baby being born, we must see it in context. We must understand that the manger scene is not the end of the story. When he was gently placed in the manger and tucked in with pieces of cloth by the mother who loved him, He was also one step closer to dying for her. The angels sang of the peace He would bring, but peace would only come through His suffering. We sing of how “the weary world rejoices,” but that is because He took on our burdens as His own.
And, this was His plan from the beginning: to bring us near. When man sinned and broke the intimate communion they had enjoyed with God, He promised it would not always be so, and God always keeps His promises. (Genesis 3:15)
The beauty of the Christmas story is wrapped up in the heartbreaking beauty of the cross. In fact, as Jesus was pouring out His soul to God the Father in His last moments, He says,
“Now My soul has become troubled; and what shall I say, ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose I came to this hour.” John 12:27
He was heading toward that hour, where He would suffer and be killed on a cross, from the moment He was born. He came as a Baby with the purpose of rescuing His people and drawing them near, thus fulfilling the promise made long ago that man and God would not always be separated and at odds.
The more I dwell on the cross, the more precious the manger becomes.
As we prepare for Christmas with our families, why don’t we take a different approach and recount the ways He was Immanuel, God with us, this past year.
How did He strengthen and provide?
How did He encourage, comfort, or convict?
He is Immanuel
Did you feel His compassionate sorrow as you mourned this year?
Did you rejoice with Him when His generous blessings appeared?
He is Immanuel
Regardless of our circumstances, God is with us every day of the year. So, when we look at the decorations in our homes and take part in all of our holiday traditions, let’s talk about the thread that ties them to the cross. Let’s rejoice in how the baby Jesus, who humbly came to live among sinful man, brought us near and goes with us still.