EMMANUEL, Twelve Days of the Nativity, Day 12
In this series of articles, titled “Twelve Days of the Nativity, ” We take a deeper look into the nativity and all of it’s beautiful symbols. The Twelve Days of Christmas take on a whole new meaning as we discover Jesus Christ and His Ministry!
Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us. (Matthew 1:23)
MARY GAINS PERSPECTIVE
The prophecy recorded in Isaiah that a virgin would conceive was fulfilled on the day Mary “conceived” of the Holy Ghost. The angel told her that the child would be named Emmanuel—meaning “God is with us.” Placing this in context, nearly 2000 years ago, I find this moment to be a “paradox,” because the God of the Old Testament, up until this point was only visible through a “spiritual presence.” In the Old Testament, the prophets told stories of the “divine presence,” but the current religious climate lost sight of a “Messiah” that would physically come.
Jesus Christ came in the flesh. I can only imagine Mary’s surprise at the angel as she ponders his words. Can you imagine Mary’s confusion and awe? She is about to experience the opposite of everything that the current religious climate was teaching, and these opposites present Mary with an opportunity to gain perspective.
When we look at the sky, celestial objects (whether they be the sun, moon, stars, or constellations, etc.)—these celestial objects appear to drift across the sky as the earth rotates. But in astronomy, at the culmination of these celestial bodies or stars, these stars reach their highest point in the sky. Culmination (the highest point at which the star is viewed) occurs when certain “points” meet in perfect unison, and it is at this perfect moment that a celestial body will reach its highest point in the sky to the observer. The three points involved in culmination are, the celestial object (star) being viewed, the line of meridian in the local area of the star-gazing-observer, and the observer of the star themselves. When these three points come into perfect harmony at an exact moment in time, this “one” moment, with all points in “unision”—the observer then sees the appearance of that celestial body at its highest, best, and brightest view. It’s in this moment, symbolically as observers, we gain perspective.
THE WAY WE “SEE”
I want to challenge the way we “see” things for a moment. I’ve spent a huge chunk of my life worrying about things that don’t matter, and the other part of my life I have spent worrying about things that do matter—now, I like to tease, that I have become a person with perspective. When you experience the contrast of two opposites, it’s in this moment where we have an opportunity to gain perspective.
MY OWN WRESTLE
My whole life I have professed to follow Christ! But in an instant, when I was faced with the realization that Christ might not be who I thought He was—my beliefs crashed. Rather, I realized that who I “worshiped” might not be the Christ. This is not a rant on my family, or my teachers, or even my church—because I was and still am a person with good feelings to all-of-the above. Instead, this was the realization and “shock” of feelings towards myself, and it’s taken me sometime to get to a place of inner peace where I can take ownership. It’s the moment you discover that you know nothing, but you don’t even know how to fix where you find yourself. I came to such a low point in my life, spiritually, that I asked myself the question, “Is there a God?” It was in that moment that I pondered a decision that I would make that has changed my life. I didn’t know if He was there, but I decided to pray—acting in faith that He would tell me that He was if He was.
A PLEADING PRAYER
So I did the only thing I could do—I prayed. I prayed and I prayed and I prayed—not even knowing if God would answer, by asking, “God are you there?” This prayer was pleading and it was desperate—it wasn’t a “single” prayer either. It was a constant prayer that flowed out through my heart—for what seemed like weeks. If prayers symbolically “rise” to heaven like they do in the way a smoke-filled offering rises to the ceiling of the tabernacle—then I’m sure God got this one because I prayed harder and longer than I ever had. This went on for a little while before I “realized” he was talking to me.
LOUD AND SOFT ANSWERS
In the beginning, the answers I received to prayer were “loud” and “direct.” At one point, I saw the “tree of life” not in vision, but in my daily experiences so many times over a three day period that I knew God was trying to “tell” me something. And in the beginning, I would have strong impressions to “act” on my faith, and when I did, God gave me “loud” answers. It’s as if he was clearly and directly helping me sift through things I needed in my life and things I didn’t. Now, the answers come in “softer” ways. It is like the scripture when Elijah says, “And, behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake:And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.” After he passed by–it was a “still small voice.”
MY WALK WITH HIM
My journey has been completely imperfect. In fact, after going through all these spiritual experiences, I had a moment in the last year when my health had fallen, and I had a series of panic attacks. It was terrifying for me, and I was begging God to pull me out of it—and He did. But this time, when I felt like I was at rock bottom, the question I asked God had changed—it wasn’t, “God are you there?” It was, “God can you hear me?” Why did the question change—well, because I have changed. I know He hears me, but because of my trial, I was worried maybe he stopped hearing me for a time—he pulled me through it. Now I am stronger, and I have persepctive.
A GUIDING HAND IN THE WILDERNESS
I know some “unseen” force is answering my prayers and trying to “help” me. I can’t explain it, but in perfect “culminating” moments I get a glimpse, and I find myself, as the hymn says, standing “ amazed at the love Jesus offers me.” I always say back to Him in my prayers, “ I don’t know why you keep helping me!” Not because, I don’t want Him to, but because I’m no different than anyone else. I know that I could be the “next guy” and sometimes I am, but He’s always there “leading” me out, helping me find “greener pastures.”
EMPATHY FOR THOSE CAUGHT IN THE WRESTLE
I have a lot more empathy for those who find themselves “wrestling” to personally know God. It’s hard to “hear” the voice—not because it’s not there, but because it takes some time to learn how “hear it” and how to “follow” it, and even then, when hard times come, we find ourselves begging for help while also simultaneously saying, “Did He really just answer me?”
THE MASTER”S TAPESTRY
As I read the story of the Nativity, I see the saints (Mary, Joseph, the Magi, and the shepherds) surprised at the appearance of angels, while also expressing obedience to them, not knowing how it ends. I see them “following” an “unseen” force that directs their paths, always protecting them while also giving witnesses along the way of His divinity. I see the beautiful “patterns” found in scripture “weaving” a beautiful story—like a magnificent tapestry. At first we can’t see the pattern in the threads, but then it begins to form a picture that tells a beautiful story—all because of Him.
My analogy to the “culmination” of a “celestial body” was purposeful. In His body (His Church), we don’t weave His tapestry by ourselves. His body has many “members” and they all have “gifts”. He wants us to seek these gifts so that we can benefit the lives of others—and guess who delivers those gifts? (1 Corinthians 12:25-31).
THE CHRISTMAS SEASON
If you haven’t seen the newest movie out about Charles Dickens called, “The Man Who Invented Christmas.” I encourage you to do so. It will expose you to the realization that the holiday of Christmas hasn’t been “practiced” for centuries like most Christians might assume it has. In fact, it was only recently introduced in the 1800’s as a “regular” practice throughout Europe and The United States, and it was “spurred” into popularity because of Dickens’ book, The Christmas Carol.
FROM RICHES TO RAGS
In the movie, we discover that as a child, Dickens was forced into poverty after his father was sent to a “Debtors Prison.” His father lived his life as a “gentleman,” and overnight, Dickens becomes impoverished and is forced into child labor. Dickens realizes upon his arrival at the factory that it doesn’t matter if his father was a gentleman or not—he was just like “the rest” of the orphan workers.
Because of the contrast that Dickens experienced in his childhood, he had an empathy for the poor that none of the upper class could relate to—but God gave him a gift. Dickens had the ability to tell a good story. Dickens, through words alone, taught the “upper class” what they might never have learned otherwise. His “words” in the famous book “The Christmas Carol” created a movement—where the rich generously began giving to the poor in a tangible way.
THE POWER OF WORDS
The best gifts don’t cost anything. Do we realize the power of “words”? Words alone have the power to bring healing or distress, comfort or discomfort, turmoil or peace. We get to choose. Will our words lift another? Will they elevate them to something more and better? When life gives us “opposites,” what will we do with those opposites? Will we leave with perspective? Will we use that perspective to motivate others to do good?
Christ was “THE WORD” in the flesh. Reading His words and understanding them has the power to produce miracles! His words have the power to change lives! They have the power to motivate people to “action”—to bring people to a place of peace where they can be a “force” for changing the world. This Christmas Season, I hope you come to “know” Him through His own words. His words are reflective of His name–“God is with us”. Thank you for reading these articles! I hope they motivate you to lift another! They are the “song of my heart.”