Every day in Advent 2016 we will be sharing short reflections from authors, Christian charities and Eden team members.
If I asked when you saw your first Christmas advert of 2016 it wouldn't surprise me if you told me that it was sometime late August or early September. Whilst this topic invariably elicits the complaint that Christmas is getting earlier every year, pre Christmas advertising is nothing new.
Around 700 years before Jesus’ birth the prophet Isaiah said this about his coming. “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.” Isaiah 7:14.
How's that for early Christmas advertising!
Isaiah was not alone in being God's mouthpiece to prepare the world for the forthcoming Messiah. The Bible, in fact, records well over 300 prophecies pointing to Jesus' birth, life and ministry. Each Christmas it's traditional for a few of these passages to be included in the canon of scripture read out in carol services across the world. For instance, Micah 5:2 reveals Jesus' birthplace, Genesis 22:18 points to his genealogy and Jeremiah 31:15 warns of the slaughter of the innocents instigated by Herod. Whilst Isaiah's prophecy about Immanuel, 'God with us' may have entered the Christmas lexicon, the reality is that for many people God is no more 'with them' than Santa Claus. This isn't to be facetious or irreverent but to face the fact that whilst the annual retelling of Jesus' birth might be one of the popular Christmas traditions it holds little relevance to the daily lives of multitudes. At the church which my wife and I lead we make it a priority at our meetings (and in all that we do) to create the opportunity for people to experience God's presence; the living reality of God to which I just alluded.
Why is this so important?
Because God's desire has always been to be a God who is 'with us’, who is experienced and who is known. 'Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!' Psalm 34:8 For many people, God appears to be distant, either through unbelief or because they think he's not interested in them. This couldn't be further from the truth and it is the very purpose of the prophecies which announced Jesus' birth. God wanted to be absolutely certain that humanity didn't miss his Son's arrival. It would be pointless for Immanuel to live unnoticed. 'God with us' but invisible and unconnected from the world he came to save. The numerous prophecies about the forthcoming of Jesus not only prove him to be the promised Messiah but are a reminder to us that God wants each and every person to experience him as a very present God. This Christmas, as we listen to those familiar prophetic passages about Jesus, let's allow them to bring us a revelation that God wasn't just announcing to the ancient Middle East that Immanuel would dwell in their midst but that he would be 'God with us', in this day and in our lives also.
December 1st, 2016 - Posted & Written by The Editor