Immanuel

Tuesday Devotional: Luke 2

bibleRead Luke 2: 8-20

The story of how the Messiah entered human history is not a good one.  This meaning that if one were to create a story of salvation and supernatural global rescue, the story centered on Bethlehem is unacceptable.  From the announcement to shepherds, to the baby in a manger, the Bible’s account defies our worldly literary standards.  On the surface, from a worldly perspective, there is no power in this story.  There is no immediate action.  There is no flash.  But at the heart of it is the true nature of God, representative of all he is and claims to be. The Messiah enters the world following the precise guidelines that God has always followed: humility, sacrifice and patience.  In a world obsessed with class, status and power, God announced his Son’s arrival to lowly shepherds in the field.  These shepherds were not consumed by the material world, men seeking their own glory.  These were men of little means, men who served.  The message of a humble Messiah, born of humble means, was not lost on these men.  As shepherds, they understood the power in service, sacrifice and love.  Unbeknownst to them, they had been trained and prepared long before that fateful day to understand and receive the message from the angel without hesitation or doubt.  They were prepared to listen and understand.

In a world moved so easily by the presence or even implication of power, God sent his Son into the world as an infant.  This was not a man on horseback with armor and might.  This was an infant, more fragile than most.  This was not power in intimidation but in utter humiliation. The Savior of the world did not come with brute force, but ready to be loved for who he was and is, before any words were on his lips to convince us of that.  Rather than love that can be taught, his love can only be perceived and experienced.  In a world with such a longing for immediate solutions, God chose to send the salvation of the world in the form of an infant, unable to do anything for himself, with no indication of when that salvation through him would ultimately be revealed.  There was nothing swift about this gift to the world.  Only the presence of the promised salvation.  He was here.  That is all.

In so many ways, the story of the Messiah is unbelievable, but it complements its purpose perfectly.  God came into this world to change it, but that change is only brought about when we adjust to him.  The story of the Messiah is not how man would imagine it.  That is because man didn’t.  It is a story for us, but not by us; it requires us to listen but then to understand that God is not man.  His will and purpose is not our own.  He is God, and he is with us, but thankfully for us all he is also wonderfully unlike us.

Tuesday Devotional: Matthew 1

Read Matthew 1bible

Over the course of life one develops certain expectations.  We develop standards and scales by which we measure everything we encounter, about people, about ourselves, about life in general.  Often these expectations are not misguided or unreasonable.  They are based on our personal experience of patterns that we in turn come to expect.  We rely on these expectations, although at times they confine rather than liberate us.  For many, the expectation when approaching the word of God is that two things will be inevitable.  First, the words will be uninteresting and irrelevant.  Second, the presence of God will be present only to the imagination.

At first glance of the New Testament, in Matthew 1, those expectations seem to be verified with the famous “begats.”  A list of difficult names to pronounce that, without background knowledge, feels distant and unnecessary.  However, upon closer examination of this list one discovers a rather different message.  Found within this list of begats is a range of people who, when grouped together, make up the complete and complex spectrum of human character, background, status and record.  This list is best represented with one word: “imperfection.”  This list of begats, that introduces the world to the life of Jesus Christ and the Gospel, not only defies the expectations that the word of God will be uninteresting and irrelevant, but exceeds even the best of expectations implied by a gospel of blessing and salvation.  This list is the open-door policy of a God who has been gathering his people long before we personally emerged into this world, a God who does not seek a people cut out of a perfect cloth.  Rather, He has been seeking to gather a people honest with their imperfections and totally overcome by his perfection.  This list actually defies the idea that God’s presence and influence are only of the mind by presenting a God pursuing his people personally and directly throughout the ages.  The quotation from Isaiah confirms this: the son of the virgin will not only be the savior of the world but will be “Immanuel,” “God with us.”  This chapter, from the list of begats to the declaration of Immanuel, shows that the God of the Heavens has always been with us. His desire is to always be a God “with us.”