A Christmas Story is my favorite holiday movie. In the movie, Ralphie Parker is in eager pursuit of acquiring his “Red Ryder carbine-action, two hundred shot Range Model air rifle with a compass in the stock and this thing which tells time.” After numerous mishaps, warnings, and let-downs, Ralphie’s father surprises him with the gift on Christmas morning. This nostalgic film evokes memories for me of when I received my first Red Ryder BB gun (and when I gifted a Red Ryder to my own son just last year…thankfully, no eyes have been shot out!)
The Christmas season is a wonderful time of year to wax nostalgic, connect with loved ones, and to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. Often in the melee we find ourselves clumsily scrambling to unwrap the meaning, like Ralph in his pursuit of a bb gun. However, Advent graces us with the opportunity to dwell on the implications of Christ’s incarnation.
Throughout biblical history, God’s people anticipated the coming of the Christ. Numerous Old Testament prophets wrote expectantly foretelling his birth. The prophet writes in Isaiah 7:14, “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” This prophecy first refers to the birth of the prophet Isaiah’s own son Maher-Shalal-Hashbaz (whose name means “the spoil speeds, the prey hastens”) as a sign of God’s presence with His people during their military and political crisis a few hundred years before the time of Christ.
This prophecy also refers to the birth of Jesus, as the gospel writer affirms in Matthew 1:22-23, “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel.” Matthew wrote his gospel just a few decades after the life of Jesus during a time of continue political oppression and religious expectation.
This “double fulfillment” affirms that God is true to His word and also tells us something of the person and work of Jesus. Jesus is God incarnate, God with us, God dwelling with His people. There are several implications of this good news for us today.
3 Implications of Christ’s Incarnation
First, God relates by His presence. Jesus is how we know God the Father (John 1:18; Col. 1:15; Heb. 1:2-3). Not only did God dwell with His people as Jesus the incarnate Christ, God continues to dwell with His people (Matt. 28:20; 2 Cor. 13:14). This good news defeats our loneliness and isolation and causes us to live with great joy with God and others (Psalm 16:11).
Second, God saves us by His presence. The name Jesus means “the Lord saves” (Matt. 1:21). God does not rescue His people by some outside, detached means. Rather, the Lord Himself personally rescues His people (Isa. 41:10; John 3:16-17). The good news defeats our fears and doubts and causes us to live in faith.
Third, God empowers us with His presence. The spread of the gospel and the good deeds of the saints is empowered by the Holy Spirit dwelling in and with God’s people. (1 Cor. 3:16; 1 Cor. 12:13; Eph. 1:13-14). This good news defeats our inaction and indifference and fuels our obedience to live godly lives in service to others.
What is the state of your heart this Christmas season. Do you believe the good news of the presence of God with us? Are you responding in joy and repentance, in worship and obedience, in faith and action?
May this good news of Advent give us joyful faith, intimate hope, and bold obedience; for His glory, our joy, and the advancement of the gospel.