Incarnation: Emmanuel

On this fourth Sunday of Advent, we continue our season-long meditation on "Incarnation."

The adjustments we've had to make during the Covid pandemic have including at least some degree of isolation from people.  The extreme cases have been people's not leaving their homes for months!  For others, it has meant canceling plans with beloved family or friends.  Whichever degree of separation from people which we've experienced this year, we have discovered that there is something fundamentally important about being in people's physical presence.

We revisited a text this week, Matthew 1:20-23, which recalls the words of Isaiah: "...they will call him Emmanuel."  The word literally means "God with us."  In the incarnation ("in the flesh") God the Son, Jesus, came to be in our physical presence.  But...why?

Soren Kirkegaard wrote a parable about a king who loved a peasant woman.  He knew that despite his power, he could not make this woman love him.  For that, he would have to find a way to become part of her world.  So the king renounced his throne to declare his love and to win hers.

The parallel with Jesus' incarnation is probably obvious.  Paul also famously wrote about it in Philippians 2:6-11.  And even as Jesus faced the end of his earthly life, he established two things that remain essential for us today.

1)  God the Holy Spirit is still with us, and always will be.  The holy Trinity has always been in existence, but our experience of the Holy Spirit is fundamentally different after Jesus' resurrection.  Jesus promised that we would always have the very presence of God with us (Emmanuel) as our Guide, Counselor, and Advocate.

2)  The Holy Spirit inspires Jesus' Body, which is made up of people who call him Lord and follow him.  This is the core definition of the Church.  At UPPC, we often speak of being the "hands and feet of Jesus."  And while the Church is not perfect, its legacy of blessing the world in various times and ways is unprecedented in history.  

For reflection:
- Many Christians today talk of the culture's growing antagonism toward Christianity.  Does this change the Church's mission, or how we work to fulfill it?  Discuss.
- Do a word study of the "Spirit of God" in the Old Testament and the New Testament.  What are the similarities and differences?  
- Have you had an experience of the Church (i.e. Christians) being God's presence in your life?  Was it a good or bad experience?  What made it good or bad?

May you know the powerful and transformative presence of the living God in your life this Christmas!


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