PREPARATION: lighting the candle and readying myself to listen.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, just as he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love. He destined us from adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace that he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.
Have you ever thrilled to a gorgeous sunset and longed for that special someone to share that moment with you? Have you ever enjoyed listening to Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus”, or similar stirring music, and wished others could hear it with you? If you have experienced such moments of longing to share, then you understand something of Father, Son and Holy Spirit wanting to eternally share their life and love with you. When Scripture reveals “God is love” (1 John 4:8), it is revealing that God is a plurality of Persons – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – living in love. God lives as a community of self-giving love. The longing we feel to share with family and friends at Christmas, to give gifts and celebrate with others, is God’s imprint on our lives. God has wired us for relationship, for relationship with Him and with others. This longing, this wiring, is to be made in God’s image and according to His likeness (Genesis 1:26).
Scientists say that the universe began with the Big Bang, but the Bible tells us that the universe began with an Overflow of Love. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit could not contain themselves; they could not hold back their love, but had to give it to others. God does not have love; He is love. It is the nature of love that it must be given away. The love of God is boundless, inexhaustible, so that it overflows to us.
Oxford theologian Michael Reeves writes of the overflow onto us of God’s eternal love: “The Father so delights in the eternal love for the Son that he desires to share it with all who will believe. Ultimately the Father sent the Son because the Father loved the Son – and wanted to share that
love and fellowship. His love for the world is the overflow of his mighty love for the Son.” (Michael Reeves, Delighting in the Trinity: An Introduction to the Christian Faith) Through Immanuel, God draws us within the embrace of His eternal communion of love.
Saint Gregory of Nazianzus (A. D. 329-390) said that God created angels and heavenly powers so that He might shower them with His love. Then, wanting to bestow yet more of His love, God created human beings so that He might give them His love and expand His love through them. It was out of God’s infinite love and self-giving that He made humans “a little lower than God, and crowned them with glory and honor” (Psalm 8:5). You and I are God’s longing, God’s longing to give and to share life.
This is the meaning of Christmas, God giving of Himself as Immanuel. It is His longing to be God with us. “Jesus Christ comes out of the bosom of the Father to fulfill his Father’s ‘yearnings’ for us. And he comes in a reconciling movement of love to draw all people into eternal communion of love within the Being of God Himself as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.” (Daniel Thimmel, Christ in Our Place)
In today’s scripture the apostle Paul provides a panoramic big picture, telling us that before God created the universe, you and I were on God’s mind. God loves us eternally: “just as he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love.” Please note God’s eternal purpose here, that we be “holy and blameless before him in love”! Ponder this: because of Christ we stand holy and blameless before God, in love.
In Immanuel, God joins Himself “with” us, gives to us His love, taking to Himself our lostness, brokenness, shame, even our death. Having nothing higher to give us, nothing more glorious and wonderful, God gives to us Himself! He wills to give us His life, even at the cost of His own death.
CONVERSATION: I talk with God about the thoughts and feelings stirring within.
REST: I take time to be present to Immanuel who is present to me.