Apparently, we’ve exhausted the winter weather here in Central Illinois. Either that, or the East Coast has stolen all of it. But as I write this Update, it’s almost balmy outside, and that ain’t right.
But inside, it still feels like the Advent season. For instance, the Christianson clan lit our second Advent Candle this week, focusing on faith -- well, everyone in the family minus Scott, who had to run home to grab the sheet music for his children’s offertory that had been left at home that morning (because he’s a really, really nice Daddy). And then Caleb, Eli, and Abby did do a wonderful job of playing some beautiful piano pieces during our offering.
In terms of Advent activities, last Wednesday, we went caroling around the neighborhood and then came back to eat together, and then this past Sunday, we held our annual Cookie Exchange (and a special “thank you” to all of you who provided cookies -- they were delicious!). But let me encourage you to join us if you can for some of our upcoming events as well.
For instance, this Friday evening, we’ll be joining a number of other churches in an outdoor “Spotlight on Christmas” singing of classic carols and worship music, sponsored by Churches United for Christ here in Peoria. And if you can’t join us for that, then please be in prayer for the effort -- not only that all of these churches can work well with one another, but also that it might be a meaningful outreach to a part of town that could really use the love of Jesus Christ.
In our message this week, we continued our series looking at the “looking forward toward” parts of Christmas -- the things that went on in the Old Testament that pointed forward to what the birth of Christ was all about in the New Testament. Case in point, Moses told the people in Deuteronomy 18:15 that God would raise up a prophet like him someday -- a very special prophet whom everyone must listen to. And Peter told the people in Acts 3:22-23 that Jesus had been that prophet. And that’s great.
But what makes it really great is when you do a little detective work on the contexts of all of that. See, the people had requested that Moses share the words of God with them not because they wanted to be closer to God, but because they wanted to keep Him at a healthy distance (see Deuteronomy 18:16, pointing back to Exodus 20:18-19). They were afraid of being in the presence of a holy God, knowing how un-holy they were in their own lives, and they wanted Moses just to do that for them -- which is a great way to push God away while still sounding thoroughly religious.
But prophets like Moses, Isaiah, etc., all prophecied about the Messiah’s coming, and that He would be God in our midst -- i.e.; such as when the angel quoted Isaiah to Joseph in Matthew 1:23 that Jesus would be called Immanuel, “God with us,” or when John wrote in John 1:1-14 that Jesus was God in the flesh, living among us. God didn’t want to be separated or distanced from His people. He wants to be in sincere, intimate relationship with us.
So what’s Christmas about? The people of God were afraid to come close to God because of their sins, so God came close to His people because of their sins. They wanted a prophet to keep God at a distance, so God became a prophet to intimately share His life with them. He gave them everything that they asked for... and in the process, gave them everything that they feared... which is probably why they ended up killing the Author of Life, instead of embracing Him...
So this Christmas, let’s all stop and ask ourselves how we really feel about Immanuel. Do we really want God with us, or would we really prefer God at a comfortable, respectable distance? If it’s the latter, then we can hang tinsel and sing songs and never open up to God or anyone else about what’s really going on in our hearts and lives. But if it’s the former, then let’s be honest in our prayers and honest in our relationships and consciously live lives that seek out and live out God’s heart in everything that we do.
Let’s really let Christ into our lives.