A favorite cartoon called “Grand Avenue” had the best message on December 20. It showed one of the characters looking up at a bright star. The first pane said, “You know it is Christmas . . .” finishing in the next one with, “when you can’t stop thinking about the presence.”
When Jesus came, He was called Emmanuel, which means “God with us.” God the Son came to earth wrapped in human flesh, God with us! Yet the Bible also says, “He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.” (John 1:10–11)
Jesus was not recognized as God in human flesh by the people whom God had chosen as His special people. They worshiped the one true God who created the world in a world that worshiped idols. Yet they did not know or receive Him. They eventually crucified Him.
However, Jesus rose from the dead and all who recognize and receive Him are given eternal life. We who believe are wrapped up in a relationship with Him that the Bible describes and being “in Him” and “one with Him” to the point that whatever happened to Him is our experience also. That means that because Jesus lives forever, I do too. God considers it a done deal. He says I am already seated in heavenly places with His Son.
Yet I still live here. I am still tempted by former sins. I look like an ordinary person, not one seated on a throne with God Almighty, yet God tells me I am a new creation. When I let the reality of that occupy my mind, from deep in my heart flows out an amazing thing: God makes His presence known to me. He bids me to let that sense of Him be part of my daily thinking because all that He has promised will culminate in the reality of being with Him forever.
“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” (Colossians 3:1–4)
During the Christmas season, this sense of His presence in this world produces an attitude some call the “Christmas spirit.” Generosity, good will, wanting to be with dear ones and a host of other positive attitudes prevail. Tragedies seem worse because it is Christmas when all is supposed to be goodness and peace. Actually, wars have halted for a little while as opposing soldiers sing out the same Christmas carol. We feel different, despite the hectic rush that often takes over.
However, many have no idea that this wonder of the Christmas spirit is so meaningful. That “spirit” should be spelled with a capital S. It is the Holy Spirit is who makes known Emmanuel, God with us. Those who know Jesus feel it most strongly, but even those who do not yet know Him or have not yet received Him are also aware of this Christmas Spirit —a deep and rich blessing. It announces that from that night in a manger so long ago the world changed.
This baby that brought God to earth made it possible for me to know Him in a deep and personal way, a way that is rich when I sing carols and look at the starry sky, a way that puts peace in my heart even as the world seems totally nutty and even evil. If God was willing to do that, then I know for certain that He cares about me, in spite of my foolishness and rebellion. I also know that He is here, waiting for me to turn from the things on earth and set my mind and heart on that which is above, on Him who is my life.
May He be your life also as you experience His presence this Christmas.