After pastoring for over 35 years, I have come to the realization that few people really understand the heart of God toward this world and its people. That even includes many in the Christian church. So many people think God is mad at them or getting ready to judge them. So many people are waiting for something bad to happen to them. So many people wonder if this thing called "life" is going to end well. So many people think God wants something from them they are never sure they can give. So many people have no assurance they will ever be in heaven. The list is very long. I have seen all these attitudes, feelings and questions among hundreds of people throughout my pastoral calling. People just lack assurance and confidence on the basic issues of knowing and understanding the heart of the Lord toward them. All these issues and concerns could be answered if people really had a deeper understanding of the Christmas message. That is my hope with this edition of the Carlson Report for you, your family and friends. Share this truth with someone you love this Christmas. That would be the best Christmas gift you could give, long after that new outfit or special gift wears out.
If you want to know something about God Almighty, a good place to start is to ask what God was doing before Genesis 1 and the creation story. In other words what was God doing before we got into the storyline? Was God bored before we arrived? Did God need something to do to be "happy?" No, in eternity past, God was just being God and that was enough. Nothing more was needed. God didn't need anything other than Himself to be content and have a great life. Back then God was love. God was peace. God was joy. Nothing has ever changed. God was having a glorious time being God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Blessed Trinity was an everlasting Family of glory that lived life to the full in a way that is beyond what any of us could imagine.
So, it was out of that fullness of wonder and glory that God freely chose to share His life with others. All God ever planned was to give what He enjoyed with others as a gift. God didn't need anything from the creation because God was complete in and of Himself. So, God giving the gift of life to the creation was a totally selfless act. God's plan involved giving Himself in a way that would show real love and connect Him to people in an unforgettable way that would never be forgotten and would never change. In other words, God would do something that would forever change how God had lived in eternity past and would remain that way forever more. God freely chose to share Himself and His love with us by becoming one of us as our Immanuel. That is why the New Testament is very clear in the opening of the Christmas story of our Lord's birth in Matthew 1:21 to say so,
She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins." All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: "The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel" (which means "God with us").
God's decision to enter humanity as one of us, our Immanuel, changed the way God would live forever. God would never go back to living without our humanity. God would forever unite Himself to us in the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ, God the Son. God's eternal, unchanging decision to unite to our humanity is called the holiday of Christmas. Another more doctrinal name for Christmas is the Incarnation, a term that according to a definition by the Encyclopedia Britannica means,
Incarnation, central Christian doctrine that God became flesh, that God assumed a human nature and became a man in the form of Jesus Christ, the Son of God and the second person of the Trinity. Christ was truly God and truly man.
The great Christian writer, C.S. Lewis called the Incarnation, or God becoming Man, the greatest miracle that has ever taken place before or after time itself. Nothing that has ever happened in the history of the world can be compared to God becoming a human being. All other wonders and miracles in the Bible pale in comparison to the grand miracle when God's divinity entered our humanity in the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ in the womb of the Virgin Mary. That is why the story of the Virgin Birth is so central to the entire meaning of the Bible and the Christian faith. The virgin birth tells us that God become one of us because the Lord wanted to share fellowship and love with us, not just to redeem us. You see, if God became one of us then it would make perfect sense that He would have to redeem us from our sin in order to have fellowship with us. All of our sin had to be removed by His forgiving grace. The story of the Incarnation, and the redemption it allowed through the cross, pointed to God's greater purpose and love affair with us as one of us.
This glorious story of Christmas and the Incarnation is THE central story and miracle of the Bible that explains the heart of God to every person who is interested and wonders about what God thinks about them and our world. First on this list is the simple and life changing truth that God has to be forever for us or God would never have become one of us. After all, how can you be against human beings when you are one? The Apostle Paul picks up this great theme in Romans 8:31-32 as he expounds on God's great plan of redemption that is assured for us in Christ,
What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?
The Apostle Paul's argument here is that if God gave the Lord Jesus for us God could never be against us. But a hidden part of Paul's argument is the fact that God can't be against us because He is one of us. How would you ever not love and cherish the very people you were united to by your own humanity in Christ? So, whenever a person has a question about the Lord's attitude toward them, all they ever need to do is read and understand the real meaning of the Christmas story. There is nothing more encouraging, meaningful and glorious than understanding the full extent of what it means for God to have taken our humanity on Himself for all eternity. With that understanding we know God is never against us in Christ. With that understanding we know this life ends well, no matter what circumstances may be going on. With that understanding we know that heaven is a free gift created for us and kept by the same God that became one of us, died for our sin and stands with us in our redeemed humanity forever.
One future day, long after we open our last Christmas present on this present earth, we will see the Lord Jesus Christ face to face. Our Lord's face will have the same fully human face that the disciples saw on resurrection morning in His glorified humanity. And the one thing that will forever that reminds us that Christmas was true will be seeing the wounds in our Lord's humanity reminding us of His passion on the cross for us as one of us (Zechariah 12:10, John 20:25-29).
So, on the eve of this great and holy celebration of Christmas, 2019 years after it happened in a virgin's womb, may our Lord fill every heart with joy as we sing the praises of our Immanuel, the God Who is one of us and with us forever more. The greatest present to open this Christmas turns out to be a deeper and richer understanding of the real meaning and significance of our Lord's coming and the real Christmas story.
May this be our BEST Christmas ever and may the understanding of the real heart of God toward us change us all in wonderful ways for His glory.