December 24, 2014, Christmas Eve
God With Us
On a wicked night in a northern clime, when ice glazed even the inky black, a farmer heard a strange noise and went to his window. There he saw two sparrows hovering near, gathering up the wee warmth that leaked from his house, so close that their wings fluttered against the glass.
His wife was gone away to worship that Christmas Eve, but, oh no, not he. This grizzled man of the sod knew church to be for the womenfolk.
Moved by the sparrows’ plight, he pulled on his boots and coat and made his way through falling and drifted snow to his barn, where he grunted open the door.
Even after he returned to the house, however, the little birds would not enter his barn. He crushed some Saltines and ventured out again and left a trail of crumbs leading to the barn. He lit a lantern and hung it from a rafter to tempt them to safety.
But no matter what he tried, the sparrows would not take refuge in his barn. He mused that they must be terrified of the human presence, daring not to enter any place where he might be, even at the peril of their frail lives.
And then the thought intruded: He was surpassing strange to them. If he could become one of them he could lead them out of that dark and icy expanse and into the warm glow of his refuge. If only he could become one of them . . . And in that instant he beheld the power of the incarnation.
Immanuel . . . God with us!
What hath the Savior wrought?
From the beginning, the desire of God’s great heart was to commune with man – Adam – in the shady cool of the evening in the paradise He created. He wished it ever thus.
Straightaway upon leading His covenant people out of bondage in Egypt He appeared to them at the holy mountain, but they shrank back, sparrows terrified by the divine presence.
In the aura of a holiness that erupted out of eternity past, their knowledge of their too-present sin burned within them til they trembled: They would be consumed. Speak only to Moses, O Lord Jehovah, and spare us.
God’s great heart ached for relationship with the one He had stamped with His image, the only being in the earthly order who could know Him for who He is. Yet again and again the clay renounced the Potter, declaring that it knew better how to mold itself.
How could God reconcile with this stiff-necked ox, how could He achieve His own eternal purpose of knowing him? How could He bless the object of His creative love?
Could God negotiate with sin? May it never be! Could the Author of all that is good and pure, just and true, wink at trespass and call evil good? What hath light to do with darkness?
No, He could not barter . . . but the sin of man would prove no match for the grace of God. He would wash him white as the new-fallen snow, make him fit to enter the holy presence. God would know the mutual love for which His great heart ached.
God became one of us that He might dwell among us. Fusion of heaven and earth, spirit and matter . . . God and man. To restore us to a bygone day, when Creator and creature dwelt in perfect sympathy . . .
The Artist of the star-strewn night,
The Author of the old, old story
Descends into our human plight,
A tiny babe bereft of glory.
The man who should, the God who will,
Fused in One, the Great Redeemer,
Christ our Lord, Immanuel,
Savior of each true believer.
The curtain rent, He reigns on high,
Awaiting each who names His name.
His Spirit meanwhile to us nigh,
Purging us of sin and shame.
Creator of the land and sea,
From every corner He doth gather
E’en the likes of you and me
And calls us to His heavenly Father.
That past to which He calls His sparrows is our future, our destiny, an endless age of sweetness and light. Immanuel: God with man, forever joined; Bridegroom and bride suffused with everlasting bliss. The name of this kingdom is heaven on earth. Our work is our worship and our worship our work.
Rejoice! Now comes the Word made flesh to tabernacle among us. Now comes the Christ child, full of grace and truth, Lord and Savior, Prophet, Priest and King.
Rejoice! He is with us, Immanuel. How is He with us? Let us count the ways . . . but in this moment name but one. He is with us in the bread and wine. O taste and see that the Lord is good.
By His Spirit, He reveals His glory that His people might share in it and make it manifest in all the world. When others emerge from darkness and enter into light they are able at last to give glory to the owner of all glory, to the One who gives it freely away.
Rejoice! He comes on the morn, a babe in a manger, a radiant star. Behold Him!
He has left the majesty of His Father on high to domicile with His sparrows below, to guide us out of our frigid exile in the realm of sin and into the brilliance of His eternal banquet. How could He save us? Only by becoming one of us. And so He has done. Give glory to His name! Amen.