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The Sixteenth Day of Advent- December 12

PREPARATION: lighting the candle and readying myself to listen.


I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
Galatians 2:19b-20

It is customary at Christmas to hear sermons about becoming more like Jesus. His humility and love inspire us to want to be more like Him. I have preached my own share of such sermons, but in time came to share the frustrated experience of the apostle Paul in trying to be more like Jesus: “I can will it, but can’t do it. I decide to do good, but don’t really do it” (Romans 7:18-19, The Message).

Thankfully, I am coming to understand more and more that Jesus did not come to make us try to be like Him, but He came to impart to us His very life. The Christian life is living in oneness with Jesus; that is, living out what He has done for us. Christ takes our place as Immanuel. He became human to do for us, living our life, dying our death, and rising to our new life. “It is in and through our union with him that all that is his becomes ours.” (Thomas Torrance, Theology in Reconstruction)

The wondrous good news is “The only way we can fulfil God’s purposes is through living oneness with him Christ.” (Daniel Thimmel, Christ in Our Place) The Gospel is not calling people to better behavior, but letting them know that God is calling us to a new identity of who we are in Christ. We live out of the new life Jesus has won for us in His resurrection. We live in Christ and Christ lives in us as Immanuel, God is with us.

In today’s scripture the apostle Paul has thankfully moved on from trying to be like Jesus, to living out of our oneness with Jesus. Oswald Chambers captures the essence of Paul’s words in his classic devotional, My Utmost for His Highest:

“Paul did not say, ‘I have made a determination to imitate Christ,’ or, ‘I will really make an effort to follow Him’ – but – ‘I have really identified with Him in His death.’ Once I reach this moral decision and act on it, all that Christ accomplished for me on the cross is accomplished in me…And the life which I now live in the flesh, not the life which I long to live or even pray that I live…I live by faith in the Son of God…”

Today’s scripture calls on Christians to realize who we really are. Our new identity is that we are in Christ and Christ is in us. We are so united with Jesus that every day we get to enter into His life. The Message translates Paul’s words: “Christ lives in me. The life you see me living is not ‘mine,’ but it is lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

Paul lives in reliance, “by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” His language is intensely personal, as it is for us: Christ loved me, and gave Himself for me. Christ did this, not just for the world, but for me.

What, then, is left for us to do? It is to live out the life that we have in Christ. The Gospel is always, “Not I, but Christ.” So, whatever you face today, you are entering into the life of Jesus, sharing His power, His victory, His mission, His concerns and passions. God has made us alive in a truer sense than we have ever been before, because He so loved us and gave Himself for us! He is truly Immanuel!

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.

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