Sometimes, says Tim Keller, “you don’t realize that Jesus is all you need until Jesus is all you have.”
Or let’s turn that around. Sometimes, you realize that if all you have is Jesus, then you have all you need.
Perhaps, like me, you have been guilty of thinking of the Christmas narrative as the prelude to the reign of Jesus. Yes, he comes as Immanuel, the King, but he is restrained until adulthood because, after all, he’s just a baby lying there in that manger.
Matthew 1:21 says, “She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”
Do we realize what that simple declaration really means? You shall call his name Jesus. Immanuel! God with us!
The angel directed Joseph to make known the identity of the child to come by the name he shall be given, to declare the Almighty God’s predetermined purpose and truth of all marked time, of all ages past and future. With every whispered word of love by his mother Mary, every call to supper, every instruction in his father’s carpenter shop or the classroom of the rabbis, every shouted greeting in the marketplace, heaven’s victory over the grave was announced to all. “God with us!” “God with us!” “God with us!”
No wonder the angels proclaimed glory to the highest heavens and peace on earth! This isn’t simply a change in residence for Jesus. He came not in royal robes waving a scepter, and yet neither was he merely the newest poor and disenfranchised member of the human race. Jesus Christ is the Son of God, Prince of Peace, Mighty God, Ruler of the Nations, reigning and ruling the eternal and unbounded kingdom under his power, all that is visible and invisible, and yet, in human form, a helpless baby, crying and struggling, restricted in this flesh.
There were a few who were privy to this knowledge and understood its implications. The babe in Elizabeth’s womb leaped when the pregnant Mary visited and Elizabeth rejoiced. The shepherds returned to their flocks, praising and glorifying God. The wise men comprehended that the balance of the universe had just shifted and avoided the murderous Herod on their journey back east. Mary pondered all these things in her heart. Joseph obeyed the angels and forfeited a normal life for exile in Egypt. Simeon and Anna celebrated him as the long-awaited Messiah.
God with us! Immanuel! Surely God among us means deliverance! God alone can redeem this land and reclaim my heart! God alone can save us from the tyranny of sin and death! God with us, making sure his promises, establishing his faithfulness forever, bringing hope of life eternal to us all, declaring his power to reverse the curse and free us from our sinful selves!
But most people went about their business. To most of the world, nothing seemed strange about that night. The same troubles, the same heartaches, the same anxieties, the same dead hearts, the same lost souls, the same chasm between man and God that had been for days, years, and centuries. It seemed that way to them as they drudged and muddled through their days and nights. But if they only knew Who had come to dwell among them, their lives could be forever changed.
As the Keller quote and its inverse phrase capably reveal, everything that everyone would ever need is IMMANUEL—here, with us.
This is Jesus, savior, healer, calmer of seas, straightener of limbs, giver of sight, gatherer of the outcast, bringing the foreigner into the fold, advocate with the father, dispenser of the Holy Spirit, crafter of the skies, timekeeper of the heavens, breather of life, heaven sent, dweller with the mortal, sufferer of iniquities, bearer of burdens, wielder of the sword, defender of the oppressed, guardian of the weak and helpless, everlasting father, captain of the army, elder brother, dearest friend, firstborn, the Word, wisdom, the very image of God, the brightness of his glory, the corporate Seed of Abraham, the bridegroom, the suffering servant, a man of sorrows, the anointed and unblemished lamb, the shepherd who knows his sheep, all the strength of the vine and all the nourishment of the bread, the bright and morning star, our sanctuary, a faithful witness, justice and righteousness in God’s holy court, first fruit in the Resurrection, our shield, lord of rest, an ointment poured forth, the cornerstone, a brother born for adversity, altogether lovely, teacher.
He is my all in all.
This is what it means to have God with us, God among us, God in the flesh. This is what happened that night long ago. He was a baby. He was needful and he suffered as a child. But he was also my king then as much as he is now. The comfort I yearn for in the midst of sorrow and affliction is mine because he is here. The reversal I need in my life happens because this baby, this Immanuel, this King makes my crooked paths straight, gives this blind sinner sight, unveils the mystery of full atonement for an outcast such as I.
This is the meditation of Christmas for me. Don’t let another moment of this season pass you by without seeing how the coming of a King, whose very name declares freedom for prisoners, comfort for the brokenhearted, and victory over sin and death can breathe hope into every aspect of your life.