Sunday, November 28, 2010

Emmanuel...God came near

"Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, "Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins." 22All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:
23 "Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall call his name Immanuel" (which means, God with us). 24When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, 25but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus. "-Matthew 1:18-24

I think in this modern age, we humans can plod along, and for awhile we convince ourselves that maybe humanity needed Jesus back when Nero saw Rome burn. Maybe they needed Him in the dark ages. Maybe they needed him before science and technology made him "obsolete". By George, we're PROGRESSING. We're improving as a human race . We don't need Jesus in this modern age surely.

But then I hear of the foster child--a baby, no less-- who was systematically tortured to near death. Or I see on the news about how they're doing forced abortions on women in China. I hear of the sex trafficking of women and children. I watch the news, and almost all of it involves wars, bloodshed, murder, and mayhem. All around me, I see the blatant disregard of God's laws, both far away and before my eyes. And I KNOW beyond a shadow of a doubt that we sinners need Jesus as much in this century as we needed him when he came.

I say WE because I am one of those sinners. There was nothing good in me, and yet God came near. Why else would he choose the name Emmanuel, "God with us"? What an amazing and wonderful thing that the infinite, holy, perfect sinless creator of the universe planned from the beginning that he loved us enough to come near! I cannot fathom it, as many years as I've known HIM. It's as unimaginable to me as me getting in a pig sty and rolling around with a bunch of pigs to get to know them. To be sinless and perfect and yet willing to tolerate the nasty, ugly STENCH of the aroma of our sins all around him....not from far away but CLOSE UP.
I don't know about you, but I have trouble with that kind of thing. I have a hard time if I'm standing in a line beside someone at Walmart who has hygiene issues, to put it nicely. I can't handle bad smells. If you think our sin doesn't stink to God, you are deceived. Psalm 38:5 says, "My wounds stink and fester because of my foolishness." The author describes the sin in his life as causing emotional, psychological wounds that STINK. That's how God sees our sins.

I think it's really easy in our culture to make light of the miracle of Christmas when we lose our sensitivity to the true desolation and depravity of sin. We watch commercials of barely clad women. We watch a sitcom where they joke about pornography and act as if it's natural that all men look at it. And pretty soon we think lust is no big deal.

We watch commercials that tell us our value and status come from what we own, not who God says we are. We allow the sins of greed and covetousness to build within our hearts, all the while justifying it as a polite "keeping us with the Joneses'."

But sin is NOT just unattractive. It's NOT just mildly repulsive. Sin is WICKED. It's vile and wretched and the reason that Jesus was nailed to a cross. It's why he was beaten beyond recognition. I don't believe you can truly know the forgiveness of the SAVIOUR unless you have come to a place of first recognizing the sin within your own heart for what is is and what it did to Him. How can anyone receive His forgiveness when deep down they don't think they really need it?

But for those of us who KNOW we need it, it is indeed a miracle. To recognize that I am the chief of sinners, and the one who could have been justified in destroying me instead cried out for my forgiveness--this love defines the meaning of love for me. It is a love which can't compare with anything else I have ever known or will ever know.

And in light of that, when I think of the Christmas story, it's much more difficult to think of it as just "commonplace". The miracle of who Jesus is is not some "story" for church. It's the spiritual truth that a lost and dying, wicked and depraved world in OUR GENERATION desperately needs to hear.

Because JESUS STILL SAVES. I know because He saved me. :)

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