Summary: He has always been with us. A Christmas sermon
“Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel, which translated means, ‘God with us’.”
Many years ago, I saw a Sunday morning newspaper comic strip that depicted a father and son, on a snowy day, looking in the front window of a department store. The display in that window was of a Christmas tree, surrounded by all the toys and trappings of the commercial season. A sign posted on the inside of the window said, “Come in and shop! Let’s make this the best Christmas ever!” The caption of the cartoon was of the father saying to the son, “How are they going to top the first one?”
It was meant to combine humor with satire, and was very successful of course. But the satirical side of it serves to express how differently Christmas has come to be viewed in our society, from when it first began to be celebrated, and certainly, from that first blessed Bethlehem night when our Savior was born.
It has to do with a distance, of sorts; a distance between myth and reality, between spiritual truth and the deceptions of the spirit of this world, between fallen man and his Creator.
In our study of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, we recently discussed verse 13 of chapter 2, and again, in verse 17, the joyous revelation that although we were far from God, He brought us near to Him by the blood of Christ, and the gospel message.
The Bible has much to say about the ‘distance’ between God and fallen mankind, and for the most part what I see it saying is that the distance, the gap, is caused by man and sin, not God.
Now, there are a few places, ~ Proverbs 15:29 is an example ~ that say things like, “The Lord is far from the wicked...” But even then, we should understand that He is only far from the wicked by virtue of wicked man’s rejection of God and His Holy Spirit.
Actually, God always has been, and is now, very, very near and available. It is His eternal presence that I want to talk about today. I want us to see that God did not only become accessible to His creation at Christmas time; but that His coming revealed what had always been true.
“The people who were sitting in darkness saw a great light, and to those who were sitting in the land and shadow of death, upon them a light dawned” - Matt 4:16
THE DISTANT GOD
I again refer to the spirit of this world. By that term, what I mean and what other preachers mean, is the Satanic spirit that shapes and governs the thinking of those outside of Christ and without God. We must always bear in mind as Christians, that we are the aliens here. Like Abraham and the other giants of the faith, we sojourn in a strange land, looking for a home whose builder is God, eternal in the heavens.
This world and its system, until redeemed by a returning Christ, continues as the domain of evil, and all of its efforts and influences come from that realm. Therefore the term ‘the spirit of this world’, refers to a spirit, a mindset, an entire existence that is contrary to the Spirit (capital “S”) of God.
To this world, this worldly mindset, and those governed by it because they themselves are far from God, God is distant.
We see this as a basic and assumed principle in all of classic mythology. God is always far off. Watching the world from his lofty throne, either molding history by the intermittent dispatch of his agents to accomplish certain tasks, or watching in detached amusement as events unfold, with no intervention whatsoever.
To the avowed agnostic, God is ‘out there somewhere’, mysterious and unknowable.
This view of God is unfamiliar to none of us. We see it expressed everywhere we look; in the entertainment media, the news media (on occasion), in song; Bette Midler had a big hit with “God is watching us, God is watching us, God is watching us, from a distance”.
But however this prevailing attitude expresses itself, I would like to impress upon you today and ask you to make an indelible mental note of it for future reference, that it is we who are (or were) far off.
Man, in his bilious pride and incredible arrogance, says “I can’t see God, I can’t feel God, I can’t hear God, I can’t smell God, I can’t taste God, therefore, if there is God, He is far away from me.
Oh, if only he could see himself as the lost lamb and know that in reality it is he that has strayed and is far from the safety of his Shepherd. If only he would see himself as the prodigal, who has sought his own way and as Paul Simon wrote, has “squandered his resistance for a pocket full of mumbles”... has laid down with the pigs and starved himself of the Father’s provision. Then perhaps he would come to his senses and stand up and take the first step toward home.