Vol 8 No. 49 God With Us


Dear Folks,


I had completed all the appropriate duties that I loved to participate in on Christmas Eve and our
children were in bed, my wife, Kerry, was content to be at home with a book and I found myself at a
midnight carol service on Christmas Eve at St. John’s Shaughnessy Anglican Church in Vancouver. Some
of you remember this story but I will repeat it for those who are not familiar. Part way through the
service came the time to repeat the Apostle’s Creed and in the dim candle lit sanctuary we began to
raise our voices in declaration of an orthodox faith. As I stood there, repeating those wonderful and
powerful words, “I believe in God the Father, Almighty…” I heard a voice much louder, stronger and
more emphatic above all the rest. It had an enthusiasm and urgency about it, a deep baritone rumbling.
Somewhere in the middle of the darkness behind me, there was such an urgency to the speaker, such a
need to declare, such a longing to join the throngs on angels and others at the manger that the voice in
the darkness picked up each phrase just a half beat before the congregation itself spoke in unison.

I recognized the voice. I took me three or four more lines to recall who it was. It was a pastor friend
of mine who was no longer ministering to a congregation. The transition and terms in which he had
left his previous church had not been easy. He was in pain, you could hear that in his voice but despite
the pain, the hurt and the sense of an unknown future, here he was in the candle lit, semi-darkness of
a community, not his own, yet because it was a community of faith, still his family, declaring the clear
good news that he could holdfast to. How much his wonderful declaration of the creed that day was
an act of worship to God and how much it was an anxious need to hear his own voice seemingly lead a
congregation once again in worship I will never know…I don’t think he knows either but it reminded me
how at Christmas I often have trouble differentiating as to whether Christmas is about me or whether
Christmas is about the Christ child. That story and many others lead me to write the devotional that is
now before you.

The Birth of Jesus the Messiah

18 Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah[a] took place in this way. When his mother Mary had
been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from
the Holy Spirit. 19 Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to
public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. 20 But just when he had resolved to do this,

an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be
afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She
will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their
sins.”22 All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet:

23 “Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall name him Emmanuel,”

which means, “God is with us.” 24 When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the
Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, 25 but had no marital relations with her until
she had borne a son;[b] and he named him Jesus. (NRSV)

deep, joyous and boisterous happy Christmas to each of us as we celebrate the birth of the child
who is Jesus the Christ. G.K. Chesterton once wrote “A stable once contained someone who is bigger
than the whole world” and so Jesus is exactly that, someone who is “bigger than the whole world”,
larger than anyone we can long for or imagine. He is the Lord and Redeemer known as Wonderful
Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace. These words are only the beginning of
how many of us wish to express the glory of this day.

Childhood habits however are hard to break. At Christmas time, despite the wonderful Christ
centered focus in my parents home and in the church we attended, the Christ part never quite worked
out that way for me. As a child, Christmas was not about Jesus. Christmas was about me. Much of that
self-centeredness has travelled long into my adult life. I love the gifts of Jesus, his life, passion, death,
resurrection, and promise to return yet I relentlessly forget that in order to be fully present with us,
he needed to leave his place beside and before God the Father, in order to be the Christ of Christmas.
This ‘coming amongst us” variously described as tumbling down, condescending or lowering himself
never quite captured the amazing truth of him setting aside so much to be so much part of us. Fully
human, fully divine.

The challenge of the incarnation is simply this: If Emmanuel means God with us and Jesus was
willing to set aside so much to be “God with us”, then to what degree am I willing to inconvenience
myself, give up my own comfort, privilege and insularity to imitate this incarnation for others.
Emmanuel, God with us…God with me…God through me, with others.

Merry Christmas.


In Christ,