by John Stemberger

As we approach Christmas this year I am provoked by the thought that our God is near.
He is not a far away God, distant or remote. Instead, the God who exists is one who came to seek and save the lost. He does not want distance or enmity between Him and His people. 
He wants to be close to us and He wants us to be close to him- physically, emotionally and intellectually. This is one of the reasons God created humanity in the first place: to have relationship and fellowship. Jesus said He “stands at the door and knocks” (Rev 3:20).
One of the names of God we often invoke in this season is Emmanuel, which literally means “God with us”. Not God far away from us, or mysteriously unknown to us, but God with us. The birth of Jesus is the most obvious way God screams into the history of time and space, “I am here and I am near!”   
It is really amazing that the creator of the universe, the “Great I AM”, Yahweh, the Alpha and Omega, the One who spoke all things into existence, is the very same God who wants to be near to us! Wow.
God’s son was made flesh in the first Christmas and He dwelt among us to walk, talk and testify what the Kingdom of God was really like. Then Jesus appeased the wrath of God by taking on the penalty for our sin at the cross so He now sees us as vessels of mercy and honor, and wants to bring us near into His family; calling us “heirs” (Rom. 8:17), adopted (Rom. 8:14) and “sons of the living God” (Rom. 9:26). 
This is so radically different than the gods of every other world religion. The notion of a Supreme Being loving us-and loving us so much that he would humble Himself by coming to earth so we could know Him and have relationship with Him-is simply a remarkable thing. These are concepts completely foreign to every other religion on the face of the earth.
The thing that sets us apart as Christians is that we have the extraordinary privilege and reality of the Spirit of God dwelling within each one of us personally! Our physical bodies have become the temples and dwelling place of God.
If the incarnation of God Himself was not amazing enough, we now see with powerful clarity that God is near and close in a more intimate and powerful way than we could ever have imagined.  How does God allow His Spirit to reside in our fallen and sinful human flesh? This is a mystery I will never fully understand, but which I can only be grateful for.
Finally, one of the greatest final ways that God wants us to draw near is found in the ultimate culmination of all things: the marriage supper of the Lamb, spoken of in the Book of Revelation. Somehow God the Father is fashioning us collectively as the Church to become the bride of Christ to be joined in eternity to His Son. This is more evidence of God’s constant and mysterious desire for us to be near to Him.
So as we approach this holy day, regardless of whether we are emotionally happy or sad, remember that “God is with us”.  He will never leave us nor forsake us. And while it is true all year long, Christmas helps to uniquely remind us of the amazing  that God is near.
From our home to yours, have a very merry Christmas and a happy New Year!

Also watch my separate video Christmas greeting:

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