On Christmas Eve we couldn’t help but bring up the most amazing fact: God came in the flesh. And that means so many things to us, even now.
So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, 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, goodwill toward men!”
God sent Himself to us, in the form of a human. It was miraculous for a number of reasons and angels themselves, following God’s direction, came and told some rather regular people, shepherds, all about it in grand fashion. God became or took on human flesh.
In the decades after His birth, Jesus lived, ministered, died, rose from the dead, and ascended to Heaven. There arose a number of false teachings about Him after a while. One of them was from a group called the Gnostics. They contended that Jesus really didn’t come in the flesh; He was a sort of phantom, who looked human and seemed human but couldn’t have been actually human. That idea needed to be addressed. Hence this next bit of Scripture:
1 John 4:2-3
By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world.
Now that’s not the usual verse to bring up in the Christmas season, but it’s really a Christmas scripture. The apostle John tells us in Scripture that it is black and white. Jesus really came in the flesh and if you say any different, that is simply not of God; it’s not true.
Why was that so important?
I have a dear Chinese friend that I don’t get to see very often; if it’s once a year, that’s a lot. We keep in touch all the time, by email and Skype. He called me earlier in the fall saying he was going to be in the States for a time. In the process of the phone call we figured out that we could actually meet if we met halfway in Ohio. That Wednesday morning I drove 5 hours to meet him. He drove 5 hours in the other direction to meet me. We arrived 10 minutes apart at a restaurant that I found online. We sat in that restaurant in a corner booth for 5 hours, completely consumed in conversation until we had to go. We both then drove 5 hours back. Why would I do that? Spend 10 hours in the car for a 5 hour conversation? Because there’s nothing like meeting in the flesh, in person. He could see, I could see and hear tone and body language, feel deeply the stories he was telling me, understand and question and get the inflections that you can only get face to face. There’s nothing like meeting “in the flesh”.
God came in the flesh. He has, as John the Baptist’s father prophesied, “visited His people”. That should overwhelm you. Immanuel, God with us. What does that mean to us?
It was a real human life.
Now I don’t necessarily know what you’re feeling tonight, but God does.
Joy, joy of family, meals and gifts, loneliness and loss, health or sickness, answers received or endless questions, assurance of forgiveness or a guilty conscience and shame.
He knows you because He is God and He came in the flesh.
He wants to guide you, lead you into His plans for your life.
He wants to heal you and make you whole.
Here’s the great news: He still lives.
What started in the stable didn’t end. At His resurrection from the dead, He showed Himself alive to hundreds of people and ascended to Heaven in view of many.
The One who came in the flesh, Immanuel (God with us), lives still. You can talk to Him and walk with Him and He understands and wants to walk you through the ins and outs of life.