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This is how Jesus the Messiah was born... - Matthew 1:18 (NLT)
My car’s odometer hit 111,111 miles the other day. I got to thinking: How far is that? And discovered it’s just shy of four-and-a-half times around the Earth. Now, could I have driven it to the moon yet? Setting all actual physical barriers aside… no dice. After twelve years, I’m not even halfway there. The moon is way out there, 238,900 miles away. By the time I get there, I’ll have another twenty-some year return trip to get back to the Earth. With almost 478,000 miles on the odometer, it’ll be time to retire that vehicle. So it’ll be a while. But I’ve got some great podcasts to listen to on the way.
All those mental gymnastics make me wonder: How can we measure the distance God had to journey to get to our planet? What kind of gaps, distances, and barriers did God have to bridge just to be with us? Obviously, it’s not a matter of mere distance. If God is present everywhere, then there’s a part of Him that is more than 13.8 billion light-years away. And yet there’s a very real piece that is right here, too. Now. Present in the room. Living in your heart. With you. With us.
Christmas is the announcement that God is with us. What an exciting, humbling prospect. God is here. The One who made all we can see - and is bigger still - came to love among us. The events surrounding the birth of Jesus were far from peaceful and easy. God made huge promises, then angelic announcements, and then showed up - ushering in His plan of redemption in some very unexpected ways with some very unexpected people.
He’s with us now. Ponder that a second. And because He’s here, we need not be afraid. That’s the word Joseph needed to hear. And we need to hear it today.
God came a long way to be with us. How far do you have to go to be with Him? One step. Turn around. No, He’s not sneaking up behind you. He’s ultra-close. Waiting for you to just turn your life toward Him. When you do, He spans all the distance that once separated you.Share Tweet
Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means “God is with us.” - Matthew 1:23 (NLT)
Nerd alert. Get ready to talk about directional words. Onward. Upward. Afterward. Frontward. Backward. These words guide us. They help people locate our house for the cookout. They tell us which way to look before we get hit by a fly-ball. That kind of thing. Not sure if you’ve heard it yet, but there’s a new directional word floating around these days. The word is withward. It describes a direction that is consistent or constant alongside someone or something else. Withward is a word that captures one way God moves.
When we follow Jesus, living a withward kind of life, we start to cultivate a “God is here” way of thinking. We recognize the fact that He showed up. And is never leaving us. When we’re living withward, we discover God is not silent when He shows up on the scene. For us, the fact that Jesus is here with us can feel lots of different ways. Scary. Overwhelming. Rewarding. Exciting. Pick your words to describe it… But make no mistake: God is here.
But Joseph experienced this withward trajectory with God in a way that no one before he and his bride-to-be ever had. They experienced the absolute earthiness of God showing up. Imagine all it takes to care for any baby. And how immediate and tangible all those needs were for Mary and Joseph. Because their baby was with them. And their baby was God Himself, wrapped in humble flesh.
Joseph gets it. And we get it. We all know what it’s like to live in skin, to have needs, to be dependent, to feel, hurt, love, play… But God gets it, too. Because He lived withward, among us, alongside us. He experienced and understands everything we deal with. And He doesn’t abandon us, but continues to offer a withward life today. So we are never alone. Never abandoned. Never, never without hope.
...the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people.” - Luke 2:10 (NLT)
Uh... ahem. I’m not sure you know this, but... I’m kinda famous. Not rockstar or moviestar famous. More like this: I’m a dad. And being a dad, I get to matter bigtime to someone in my life. I’m so thankful for the fact that I’ve gotten to experience the joy on three little kids’ faces. And to hear each one shout, “Daddy’s home!” My kids help me remember I’m loved. And that I’m welcome. My “value” isn’t determined by approval or acceptance, but it feels pretty good to be famous to my kids.
But when God showed up - as a tiny baby in first century Palestine - He didn’t experience a very excited welcome from most of the world. Unnoticed by the majority. Feared by a few. Valued only by the handful of people who actually recognized His worth: He was the supreme gift.
But this gift would bring upheaval. Jesus’ arrival was a major disruption in people’s lives. Especially for Joseph. He was reeling from shock and disappointment, wrestling with Mary’s “predicament.” He received angelic instructions in a dream. Then had to endure a terribly difficult setting, traveling and seeking shelter, delivering a baby. Man, this was supposed to be good news. That would bring great joy. But right now? Cold. Tired. Exhausted. Awesome, Joseph may have thought. But then being harried. Pursued. Fleeing. Seriously? C’mon.
Joseph was faced with humiliation, ridicule, and doubt. Being obedient to God was going to cost Joseph a lot, not the least of which was his reputation and honor. When we’re being chewed up by circumstances, even knowing God is involved and that He’s working… we need reassurance. When we hit that same kind of wall in our lives, we have to be ready to look back to this promise, remember the good news, the source of true joy.
Take a moment to ponder the good news. We were separated from God. But He did everything it took to bring us to Himself. All this, through Jesus. Dive into one of the Gospels and discover more about what Jesus did to bring us the great joy we can now experience because of Him.Share Tweet
“This child is destined to cause many in Israel to fall, and many others to rise. He has been sent as a sign from God, but many will oppose him...” - Luke 2:34-35 (NLT)
Wall Street 24/7 publishes a regular list of the "50 Least Powerful People in the World." They track what they describe as "well-known individuals around the world who have recently experienced a precipitous loss in stature." Each has “fallen a great distance from their peak - some by their own doing and some as a result of circumstance," most of them enduring this loss of respect or stature through some kind of moral collapse or unfortunate circumstances. Nobody wants to walk through this kind of experience. We may not have experienced a calamitous fall or cataclysmic failure. It may just be a lapse in judgment. Or another stumble in a sin-pattern. Perhaps something we wish we could un-say. We all have moments where we feel all-too-well that sense that we’re a walking fiasco. It’s then that we most identify with the way Jesus showed up.
Jesus showed up at the starting line in a “loser’s” position - one that appeared to be one of weakness and great need. Jesus demonstrated the strength it takes to release a hold on the world’s version of power, trusting in His Father’s favor, and, in the end, He was lifted up. He didn’t mind making the first century’s list of the “50 Least Powerful…” It was the pathway to reveal the fact His is the Name above all names.
What was it like for Joseph to parent this baby, who was God Himself, but who also needed his watchful care and protection? If your son is the most powerful being in the universe but that power is completely invisible to everyone, what does that say about you as a dad? Jesus demonstrated that position doesn't matter; that a carpenter could be the adoptive father of the Savior of the world. God could put on flesh and become a servant. He lived in skin and loved really well. So could Joseph. So can you and I.
“But why did you need to search?” he asked. “Didn’t you know that I must be in my Father’s house?” - Luke 2:49 (NLT)
There’s a doorway in our house that can tell you fairly accurately what the temperature is outside. In really cold weather, this bedroom door will close properly. But if it’s warm outside, the shape of our house changes slightly and the door frame warps... and won’t allow the door to close all the way. If it were to warm up drastically overnight while the door was shut, we’d be accessing that room through an exterior window until the weather changed…!
Prayer can serve as a doorway, of sorts. God wants us to be with Him, to dwell in His presence, to talk with Him, to be with Him in the Divine Throne Room. Long ago, I used to think prayer served as a literal access to God’s presence. In my mind, I’d come and go. Sometimes the door was open. Sometimes shut. Sometimes stuck. I thought I could summon God when I needed Him and then dismiss Him when I’d rather not have God watching whatever I was up to.
Now, I know better. I know we don’t come in and out of God’s presence. Since He came, lived, died, then defeated death and was resurrected… now He never leaves us. We’ve been welcomed into His family forever. We’re filled with His powerful presence, the Holy Spirit. And Scripture tells us that the same mighty power Who raised Jesus from the dead lives in us. So now prayer serves more to orient our minds to the fact that He’s already here.
Joseph had used his very own hands to deliver the baby, Jesus. He saw Him in the manger. He watched Him grow. One thing was certain in Joseph’s life and all the days following: God is here. And our lives are now God’s home.
Cultivate the habit of acknowledging that God is present. He never leaves us, so He doesn’t suddenly show up when we pray (if we somehow pray properly) and He doesn’t take off and leave when we say, Amen. God is with us. He never leaves us... doesn’t give up on us. He’s here!Share Tweet