"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)

The celebration of Christmas is a way for Christians to remember the good thing that God has done in the past. That is --to have given Himself in love, through the coming of Jesus Christ. Also to usher in the ultimate expression of love that will eventually come in at the cross.

While at the same time the celebration of Christmas is also to enact and bear witness to the Christian hope that one day God would ultimately and physically be with us 1 in the return of Jesus Christ to usher in the New Heaven and New Earth where John’s revelation says there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain –and that God Himself will wipe away our tears2.

For Christians living in the present the word Immanuel has great significance because Scriptures say that whenever people gather in Jesus’ name there He is in their midst3 .

As a family, a church and a fellowship of friends we can be certain that as we look back at this past year that God indeed is with us.

God was with us in the pains, disappointments, tragedies, triumphs and jubilation that we experience throughout this year. In fact, we can be confident that God was present in history to accomplish His will of restoring the broken relationship of His creation with Himself –the context of our passage points directly to that as we shall see that the Immanuel came out of a line of people like you and me, frail, sinful, and imperfect4.

The promise that God is with us is ours to claim because this Christmas gathering is a gathering that’s done in Jesus’ name.

Now as we look back to the year that has gone by and as we face the year ahead we can always look unto Jesus who is always with us –our Immanuel.

  1. Revelation 21:3 (NIV)
  2. Revelation 21:4 (NIV)
  3. Matthew 18:20 (KJV)
  4. Matthew 1:1-16 (NIV)


Anonymous said...

hi chuck.

any thoughts on kenosis? personally, the thought that God so loved the world that He emptied Himself for us is so much more appealing to me.


chuck said...

Hi Tin,
Thanks for commenting.
About the Kenosis of God in Christ –I think it is one of those important things that’s rarely given emphasis in the preaching and teaching of contemporary Christian churches.

I believe that it is important and that it goes hand-in-hand with the Immanuel theme that I explored in this post. Primarily because the Divine Kenosis (That Paul expounded on in a number of passages but very explicitly in Philippians 2:5-11), serves as the theological motif of the Christmas narrative it is the enactment of God being the Immanuel but it goes even further because it reveals to us what it cost God to give Himself in Christ –that is to go the distance of subverting His divinity (without losing it) into a humble submission to the will of the Father even unto death!

It is in the Kenosis that we will find out that the crucified Jesus was not just one more godless, godforsaken human being, dying as all of us must He was the man who chose to identify Himself in love with the godless and godforsaken. It was His mission from God to do this. As the one who came from God, the Incarnate Son of God, it was God's love He expressed and enacted in His identification with humanity by entering human history. Therefore the crucified Jesus brings the love of God into the depths. God's work of reconciling the world to Himself, the good news of salvation from the power of sin and death accomplished and made known in His word.

Moreover the Kenosis reveals to us our condition –that is we are all the opposite of who Christ is which is a good point of reflection for everyone living in a capitalist-consumer society that gives such a high premium on the value of self. In the Kenosis we are given a glimpse of God’s intent for man –that is to be like Jesus (which can be also related in the Imago Dei motif of Genesis 1:26). Because in the fully human Christ God shows us that the will of God in creation is to give Himself in humble self-giving love that would eventually overcome death and evil.

The motif of the Kenosis also shows us that Jesus’ self-giving love has ethical implications for those who profess to be His followers –thus a kenotic ethic which can considered as an ethic of sacrifice.

The Kenosis in the Epistle to the Philippians urges Christ’s followers to imitate Christ's self-emptying, God's humility exhibited in the incarnation of Jesus serves as a call for Christians to be similarly subservient to others in love which is the heart of the Gospel.