2022 Advent Devotional – Immanuel, God is With Us is Now Available on Kindle

Advent 2021 Devotional – First Sunday of Advent

PRAYER

Take a moment to become still, aware of God’s presence, and then pray:

Loving Father, we thank you for the profound meaning and beauty of these days of Advent. In the midst of what can be a busy and hurried season we ask that you would calm our hearts and minds to be ready to receive. Reveal the glory of your beloved Son who dwelt among us to make us more like Him. Amen

REFLECTION

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people… And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.
John 1:1-4, 14

Do you have a favorite Christmas carol? Is so, what is it about that carol that speaks to you? What does that song say to you about God or about you that is so memorable?

There is a Christmas carol that I loved as a child, and still do today. But it did instill some skewed ideas in me about God and, therefore, about me. It was that much loved carol, “Away in a Manger”, with the lines: “The cattle are lowing, the baby awakes, But little Lord Jesus, no crying he makes.” I sang the song with a little child’s wonder, but grew up thinking that Jesus as God did not cry, feel pain, or wrestle with temptation. He was not like me.

There are times I have wondered if Jesus really knows the loneliness of social isolation, the pain of disease, or the anguish of uncertainty. Sometimes, we who worship Jesus as divine have difficulty accepting that Jesus is also truly human.

In the Year of our Lord 325, over three hundred church leaders from the farthest reaches of the Roman Empire gathered in the city of Nicaea to formally reaffirm that Jesus is fully God and fully human. Many of the leaders were survivors of Emperor Diocletian’s fierce persecution; they came blinded and crippled from tortures they endured. They preferred death to denying that Jesus was God in the flesh. Their actions at the Counsel of Nicaea set the course for future generations confessing Jesus as: “God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God…He became incarnate by the Holy Spirit and the virgin Mary, and was made human…” (Taken from The Nicene Creed)

The Gospel’s witness to Jesus as the Word become flesh was so critical to Christian faith that the apostle John warned early Christians: “those who do not confess that Jesus has come in the flesh; any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist” (2 John 7). It is important to note that the word flesh, “biblically speaking, is a loaded word. When the Bible speaks of humanity in darkness, in rebellion and corruption and perversion, it uses the word flesh.” (C. Baxter Kruger, The Great Dance: The Christian Vision Revisited) The word “flesh” does not refer simply to our skin, bones, and body, but to the totality of who we are in our fallen minds, spirits, and bodies. Scripture frequently laments the frailty and helplessness of flesh: “For ‘All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of the field. The grass withers, and the flower falls’” (1 Peter 1:24; Isaiah 40:6).

And yet, the breathtaking good news of Christmas is that God stooped low: “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” Out of infinite love for us God took on Himself the burden and vulnerability of our fleshly existence. He made it His own, embracing our broken and estranged human condition in order to save us. Martin Luther was right: “The mystery of the humanity of Christ, that He sank Himself into our flesh, is beyond all human understanding.” (Martin Luther, Table Talk)

Scots theologian James Torrance writes about how Jesus, the Great Physician, heals us quite unlike any other physician heals. Rather than simply diagnosing the human condition, i.e., “flesh”, and prescribing the cure, Jesus makes Himself the patient! He takes on the human condition so that by His life He cures it. “He assumes that very humanity which is in need of redemption, and by being anointed by the Spirit in our humanity, by a life of perfect obedience, by dying and rising again, for us, our humanity is healed in him.” (James Torrance, “The Vicarious Humanity of Christ,” in Thomas Torrance, Ecumenical Studies in the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed)

Greek philosopher Aristotle famously defined God as “the unmoved Mover”(theos apathes), who is remote from us and unmoved by the suffering of our human condition. How wrong! The good news of Christmas is that far from being unmoved, God takes on flesh, immersing Himself in all of our pain and sorrow in order to save us.

WORSHIP

Think back over the past 24 hours and note when you experienced a “high” and a “low”. Share with God how the humanity of Jesus might speak to you in what you experienced.

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