Summary: The idea that God is with us is ridiculous and radical - but real!
“What’s Christmas All About? Joining the Family”
When I first saw the original movie “Home Alone” it brought back some memories for me. In the movie a young boy is accidentally home alone when his family goes on vacation. As the plot develops the boy conquers his fears of aloneness and goes on to single-handedly corral two thieves who have been robbing houses in the neighborhood. It made for a great, fun movie. And while I was never left behind when my parents left for vacation, there were those times when I was alone for a little while. I can still remember vividly feeling tremendous fear on a couple of those occasions.
Have you ever been left alone? Have you ever wondered I God has left you alone, has left you behind to go on to other business or other people? Or perhaps you’ve wondered if God is really with us? After all, it is A RIDICULOUS AND RADICAL CONCEPT. Immanuel – God with us. God with us. God with us. God with us.
What a RIDICULOUS concept. Consider the concept of God. THE OLD TESTAMENT paints a picture of God as distant and separate. God, in fact, states, “I am the high and lofty one who inhabits eternity.” And if God is truly God He must be separate from us. He cannot be God if He is too close to or too much like us. All major faiths agree that a god must be totally ‘other’, far removed from humankind. Yet Matthew claims Jesus is Immanuel – God with us. It’s ridiculous!
When Moses was on Mount Sinai receiving the 10 commandments He could not look at the face of God –the Old Testament is clear that no one could see God’s face and live. God was unapproachable. Mountains quaked, smoke billowed, people died. Yet Matthew claims Jesus is Immanuel – God with us. Somehow, in Jesus, God has come near. It’s like electricity. Before electricity can be of any use in a home or a building it must pass through an electrical transformer. The transformer cuts the power down to whatever is needed for that particular place. Without this reduction everything in that place would burn up. Matthew claims that Jesus is the transformer that alters the God so He can be with us, so we can see Him and know Him. Immanuel – God with us. It’s ridiculous.
Consider THE WORLD in which we live. Is God with us? It’s a world where many starve while others eat until they’re too full, where crooks prosper and hold the rest of us in fear, where rip-off artists abound and greed rules, where the sacred is constantly being trampled and rejected, where violence is part of the fabric of life, where sex which was meant to be holy has been reduced to an appetite to be filled at any cost, and where fear runs the streets so that even churches hire or provide security for their buildings and grounds. Yet Matthew claims Jesus is Immanuel – God with us. It’s ridiculous!
Consider the HEADLINES. Earthquakes, tsunamis, and floods; plane crashes, increasing suicide rates among young people; states with legal assisted suicide; the increase of diseases for which there seems to be no cure; the gut-wrenching truth that some babies are born crippled and handicapped and some are not even given a chance to be born; the heart-stirring pictures of abandoned persons lining the hallways of run-down nursing facilities; or more and more soldiers going off to war. It does appear, as Omar Khayam once put it, “The world rolls round forever like a mill. It grinds out death and life and good and ill. It has no purpose or mind or will.” Yet Matthew claims Jesus is Immanuel – God with us. It’s ridiculous!
Just think about it. In the words of Frederick Buechner, “The One who inhabits eternity comes to dwell in time. The One whom none can look upon and live is delivered in a stable under the soft, indifferent gaze of cattle. The Father of all mercies puts Himself at our mercy.” Yet Matthew claims Jesus is Immanuel – God with us. It’s ridiculous!
The late Dr. Norman Vincent Peale framed it well. In his message “The Wonderful Excitement of Christmas” he wrote “During the Christmas rush two men were standing on Fifth Avenue at 57th Street in New York City, waiting for a red light. One of them was irritated by the traffic. ‘This town is totally disorganized,’ he growled. ‘Look at this traffic! It’s terrible! Something ought to be done about it.’ the other man…thoughtfully countered, ‘You know, it’s astounding, the romance of it. There was a baby born of peasant parents in a little out-of-the-way placed halfway around the world from here. The parents had no money or social standing, yet two thousand years later that little baby creates a traffic jam on Fifth Avenue, one of the most sophisticated, streets n the world. This irritates you. Instead it should fascinate you.”