Special Note: This was originally scheduled to run Thursday. The unexpected and untimely death of Brad Smith, a great friend, called for a pause to let our hearts catch up with our faith. As an early media pioneer of Christian communication through video and television, Brad was a consistent encourager of our work with Heartlight, Verse of the Day, and in this section, "Finding our Story in God's Story." Brad was also working with us on two fresh new ideas to bring scripture to life for children and also connect James' work with broadcasters all over the world. Not only do we feel a deep sense of personal loss, but we have lost a champion in sharing Jesus through media. We needed time to absorb the shock before finishing this post which speaks directly about God's love for us powerfully demonstrated in Jesus coming to be one of us. Hopefully, these thoughts are a blessing to you. The words below come from our faith that makes such shocking moments in our lives bearable. This faith helps us refocus our lives on our future reunion in the presence of Jesus. He became one of us so we could be with him and be reunited with each other in his presence, forever (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).
How can God really know what it is like to face what we face? How can he feel the burdens we bear? How can he really know just how hard life can sometimes be for us? After all, he’s God and so the future isn't in doubt for him like it feels for us. He knows all things and can do all things, so how can he feel the frustration and uncertainty we feel in times of grief, loss, and tragedy. When you are limited like mere mortals like us, well it is just hard sometimes because we don’t know what God does and can’t see around the corner of our dilemmas as he can. Yes, I know God knows all things, but how can he really feel them the way we do?
I don’t know if you have ever thought such things, but many people who have talked with us in their times of tragedy and loss have voiced them, or at least something similar to them. That’s what make’s Jesus' birth so important. As James says in today’s video, “God, through Jesus Christ, became one of us!”
Jesus’ birth was an explosive event politically when he was born. We will cover some of the dynamics of why it was such an explosive event in coming weeks. But today, we want to settle into the volatile truth that James expressed in the video: “God, through Jesus Christ, became one of us!” This truth is the foundation of "Finding our Story in God’s Story." Since we could not ascend to God and be with God as one like God, God came to us as one of us. He bent history, both human history and "HIStory" to find us so that we could find life in him.
Matthew knew all the names and titles of Jesus. In fact, he refers to Jesus at the beginning of his gospel story using these terms and titles:
- Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham (Matthew 1:1).
- Jesus the Messiah (Matthew 1:16-17).
- A son (Matthew 1:21).
- Jesus who will save his people from their sins (Matthew 1:21).
- King of the Jews (Matthew 2:2).
- My (God’s) son — a fulfillment of prophecy (Matthew 2:15).
Matthew emphasizes that Jesus entered our world as "God with us" by referring to Jesus as Immanuel. Matthew also wants us to know that Jesus is God as one of us. Near the very beginning of his gospel story, Matthew refers to Jesus as “the child” (Matthew 2:9, 13, 14, 20, 21 — Note that in verses 13 and 20, the words occur twice.). That is Matthew’s way of reminding us that when God chose to join us in our world, he came as a helpless and vulnerable child. He needed parents to love, protect, and train him. Such a thought almost seems blasphemous, yet it is the specific emphasis of God’s inspired writer! God didn’t come to our world as a heavenly tourist with special arrangements to keep him safe and to give him special treatment. He entered our world through human birth so that we could share in the promise of his story through new birth (John 1:9-13; John 3:3-7).
We must never forget, “God, through Jesus Christ, became one of us!” That is why we call Jesus both "Immanuel" who is "God with us" (Matthew 1:23) and he is also "the child" who is God choosing to be one of us!
What difference does this truth make in the grit of day-to-day life? Well, in a week beginning with heartbreak and loss for us, we can say with certainty that this truth changes everything. We know that God feels our hurt and shares our sorrow. He understands our confusion, frustration, and loss from his human experience as well as his omnipotence. Even now, Jesus is at the Father's right hand communicating our feelings to the Father as one who is always interceding for us (Hebrews 7:25; Hebrews 2:14-18; Hebrews 4:14-16). In addition, the Holy Spirit takes the emotions we cannot verbalize and brings them to the Father as he "intercedes for us through wordless groans" (Romans 8:26-27).
The story we celebrate at Christmas can get lost in sentimentality and the sweetness of the season. The story of God becoming one of us in Jesus is made up of the grit, threats, and fear of the real world. God entered that world in Jesus to be with us and one of us so that we can be with him and one of his. Nothing matters more than this when our lives face the stark realities of our mortality. Jesus being "the child" in Matthew's gospel means we can be God's children, forever!