Our Pastor Jack Brown made a salient point during the Christmas Eve service, that Jesus as Immanuel: God-with-us, should be something that is noted and celebrated throughout the year, not just in December. In some ways we may very well lose sight of that, I’m afraid. God is indeed present in the person of Jesus by the Spirit in the church. In that Presence there is peace and joy. But there is a shaking going on, as well. God in Jesus meets us where we’re at, but not to leave us there.
In Jesus, God is with us. Given our western, modernist upbringing and mindset, all the more emphasis oddly enough is going to have to be on Jesus, in this needed point. In other words, God is with us in Jesus, no less. Yes, God, and that can in no way be minimized. But the focus ends up being on Jesus. Who is this God? Look to Jesus. Gaze into the human face of Jesus.
Dusty theological books are thick with pages which make much of God and God’s attributes. Jesus is taught to be both fully God and fully human, but to understand Jesus, one looks at the doctrine of God. There is some truth here, although not so much in terms of the systematic approaches out there, I’m afraid. More in terms of the story of God as told in Genesis onward. We find a God who while mysterious, is very much immeshed in human affairs, the climax of that coming in the incarnation, when God actually becomes human in Jesus. That life taking the shape of a cross, followed by resurrection.
Do we want to understand God? In fact just how do we understand God? Do we isolate his attributes through our study of scripture? Such as his omnipotence (being all-powerful), omnipresence (being everywhere present), immutability (being never changing), etc.? Jesus said that whoever sees him, sees the Father. He was speaking to his disciples and whoever else was listening at the time. But surely in some way this promise holds true for us today, since he is really only seen this way by the Spirit. I take it that through the pages of scripture, especially in the gospels and the rest of the New Testament we can gather in the essence of this, even though, unlike his disciples, we have not seen and experienced him in person.
N. T. Wright some years ago pointed me in a new direction with points like this, sustaining me in that direction, along with others (such as Scot McKnight). So that I see everything in scripture and in life in a new way, in and through Jesus and the revolution of God’s grace and kingdom come in him. Everything both having significance and finding its true significance and place in that. And not apart from that.
And so in Jesus, God is indeed with us and there’s a whole lot of shaking going on both in terms of our own lives, and the life of the world. As we await the completion of this revolution in and through Immanuel.