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Monday, December 19, 2016

Emmanuel-'God With Us'

Yes, it's that time of year again, the Season in which we traditionally celebrate the Birth of the Savior of the World! We know that Jesus was most likely born in a very different Season, but, as the story goes, religious leaders borrowed from pagan tradition & settled the day that we celebrate Jesus' Birth to coincide with the Winter Solstice, or the time when the days begin ( slowly ) to get longer: some call this 'the coming, or appearing of the light'. No matter its origins, the Christmas season has been one in which we lay aside our worries for a season & gather together as friends & family, whether to celebrate the Birth of Jesus, or just to have a jolly good time!

Seasonal Affectations aside, the Winter Season is harder on us then any other Season; especially living in any of the northern states, where it usually dumps a lot of snow & the temperatures often drop ( way ) below most people's comfort level, the Winter Season can be one of the hardest to survive while maintaining any degree of sanity. While there are many who work year-round, there are quite a few, particularly in the more rural areas, who work seasonally, in other words, as the conditions allow; hence, for those whose work is primarily done outdoors, the Winter season IS a time of Rest, but if not careful, it can be a time of hardship as well!

What does it mean to you that God, or the Creator is with us? Ask anybody, including most Christians & you'll probably receive a fairly 'pat' answer, something like 'His Spirit dwells in us!' True enough; His Spirit DOES indeed indwell His people, but, Scripturally speaking, nowhere does the Bible record those words; sure, a general misreading & misunderstanding of certain texts ( John 8 & 14 ) seem to IMPLY that He does ( or will ), but only one portion actually says ( outright ) that ANY part of the so-called 'God-head' will indwell us & the Spirit is not even mentioned ( by Name? ) there: 'If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him'. These are the words of Jesus, as recorded in John 14:23.

The Creator God, as far as we know, is a Spirit! It is universally accepted that this is so, yet still, we have most Christians saying that within the so-called 'God-head', we have the Father, the Son & the Holy Spirit. I've asked this question before & it sounds almost so profoundly simple as to be somewhat ignorant, but 'does a Spirit have a spirit?' Such a concept might lead to other seemingly ignorant questions like, 'IS the Creator God a Spirit Being?' One might be lead to ask, 'is the Creator God human, like us?' 'Is that what it means when it says we were made in His Image?' Believe it or not, I've actually heard reasoning akin to this!

Whatever the case may be, when Jesus was born of the Virgin ( young woman ), He fulfilled Isaiah's prophecy, 'Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel' ( Isaiah 7:14 ) A natural objection might be, 'but Jesus was NEVER called Immanuel ( Hebrew? ), or Emmanuel ( Greek? )!' In Matthew's record of the Gospel, though, the Birth of Jesus IS recorded as fulfilling this hopeful prophecy & it is universally accepted that this Jesus was, as the hymn-writer put it, 'Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing'!

The Indwelling of the Spirit HAS made a world of difference! No more do we strive with 'the flesh', though at times it sure seems like it; no more must we wait for a time when our Messiah will come (unless we, like the Jews of Jesus' Day look for a political Savior )! Whether one trusts the biblical record or not, Jesus came as 'God in the flesh-God with us' & so brought to an end the reign of terror that the children of God had labored under since Adam fell!

With this Season of Rest comes hardship as well; for those who do not carefully prepare during the previous times ( seasons ), Winter can be the worst season, especially for those who can only work 6-8 months ( if that ) out of the year. You've no doubt heard the saying, 'make hay while the sun is shining'; those who make their living doing mostly seasonal work ( Spring through Fall ) know the meaning of this well-used phrase best! In order to make it through the Winter months, these must often scrimp & save to put aside during the months when certain kinds of work can be done.

The Celebration of Christmas, or the Mass of Christ, is a long-standing tradition, one that will probably never die! Though most who celebrate it realize that it is most likely the wrong season, not many realize, or acknowledge it's pagan roots. Like a good friend of mine recently said, though,'we have co-opted it'; in other words, we have made it our own! We do dot celebrate the birth of the Sun ( god ), we celebrate the Birth of the Son. We do not honor the false deity of the Roman god Saturn, we honor the Living God, who in the form of His Son, Jesus who was the Christ, came to dwell with us forever!

As 'God with us', Jesus brought to fruition the Promise of the Ages! He did not come simply to set His People free & then return to some far off 'Heaven' where He bides His time waiting to return & finish His Work; He came to indwell them so that they could continue His Work! The Dominion Mandate given to Adam so long ago is at the heart of this Season; through the Spirit Within, we have the Strength, not only to continue His Work, but to Rest, like He did, in an Eternal Seventh Day!

Charles Haddon Shank

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