In this abiding series, each post will be framed as an email correspondence to a friend who is seeking to get ‘more’ out of his or her faith. My hope is that by exploring this topic as a conversation, you will resonate with the message as deeply as if it were a letter addressed to you.
To: Friend Seeking More from Faith
From: Doug Nuenke
Subject: Missing Jesus this Christmas
Merry Christmas, my friend!
As you suggest, if this idea of abiding is really a missed reality of the Christian life, it’s possible to miss Jesus even in the midst of a holiday that celebrates his birth.
This shouldn’t come as a surprise. After all, the first Christmas came and went, hardly a blip on the radar. The infant Jesus was recognized by a few: some astrologers, a narcissistic king, and smelly shepherds. To say that people missed Him would be an understatement. Even if they recognized His existence and the cyclone of political intrigue surrounding Him, most still missed the real Jesus.
This Christmas, let’s lean in to the fullness of the first century event we celebrate. Isaiah’s prophecy, as echoed by Matthew in his gospel, speaks of a new reality coming to earth. The person of Jesus was God’s response to the deepest longings of humankind:
“The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him ‘Immanuel’–which means, ‘God with us’” (Matthew 1:23 NIV).
Immanuel. In that word resides a reality often missed by 21st century believers: the real presence of deity in our everyday lives, the 24/7 manifestation of God with us. Immanuel means for us, “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27 NIV).
The gift of Christ to humanity was not one with an expiration date. Jesus walked the Earth and sent in His wake the Holy Spirit, who would continue the work of empowering, teaching, and counseling the children of God. In other words, ‘God with us’ came and never left.
Andrew Murray wrote of the ongoing reality of ‘God with us’ in his classic, The Spirit of Christ,
“In His name and through Him, the Holy Spirit descends as a person to dwell in believers and to make the glorified Jesus a present reality within them.”
A present reality within them. Jesus is still Immanuel. His presence is as real in this moment as it was when He lay in a manger thousands of years ago.
This time of the year offers a powerful invitation– not just to acknowledge the arrival of Immanuel, but to orient our lives around abiding in Him every day.
My prayer for you is that this Christmas begins a new season of deep, rich companionship with the One who is with us.