December 8: Divine Joy!
December 8, 2015
TODAY'S BIBLE READING:
by Josh Moody Each year our family has a tradition of opening one Advent Bible reading starting on December 1 and finishing on Christmas Day, December 25. This year I am sharing those Bible readings with some thoughts based on them for use as a devotional during this season. Matthew 1:22-24:
All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: ‘The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel’ (which means ‘God with us’). When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife.One of the strangest apparent accidents of the text is that while Joseph has just been told by the angel to call the child “Jesus,” we now learn that calling this child specifically “Jesus” is actually in fulfillment of a promise to call him “Immanuel.” Such moments can cause head-scratching for the unwary reader: which is it, Jesus or Immanuel? No doubt many answers have been given to this little conundrum, but the most likely, to my mind, is also the most helpful. “Jesus” means “God saves,” which is now underlining the true fulfillment of that name in the actual person of God himself present (that is, “Immanuel,” “God with us”) who is doing the saving. It would be like calling someone “William” and saying this is why he was called “the conqueror.” For William is the name that was made famous by its designation to the ancient king “William [or Wilhelm] the Conqueror,” and so to say that he is given this name in the same breath as saying that he is called “the conqueror” only serves to confirm the true meaning of the name that he was given. This is the most likely explanation, but it is also the most personally helpful. Not only is Matthew telling us that Jesus is fulfilling the great promise of Isaiah 7, he is also telling us how. He will be “God with us” saving us – he is the King, and he is the saving King, too; he is God, and he is the Savior God, as well. It is easy for us to swing from one extreme to the other in this regard. Cultures do, churches do, individuals do. One moment we make God so close to us that we cannot grasp his immensity. He is a friend, but little more than that. The next moment, though, we make him so immense that the other idea of knowing him, or of him saving us, being with us, is as unfathomable as an elephant fitting in a telephone booth. Instead, this tells us it is both. When we think of Jesus, we are to think of the great God of the whole universe. And we are to think of this God as with us, present, for a specific purpose of saving. This combination, Matthew hints, does not denigrate his majesty, but exalts it as predicted long ago by Isaiah. Would you then this Christmas fall at the feet of the God who is with us? Worship him as above all, grander and greater than all, and yet at the same time also actually – by faith, real faith – your personal Savior? It is a strange combination, but like the mythical elixir of life, it is the melding of truth that changes the world. Immanuel, God with us.
Once in royal David’s city, Stood a lowly cattle shed, Where a mother laid her Baby, In a manger for His bed: Mary was that mother mild, Jesus Christ, her little Child. He came down to earth from heaven, Who is God and Lord of all, And His shelter was a stable, And His cradle was a stall: With the poor, and mean, and lowly, Lived on earth our Savior holy.
(“Once in David’s Royal City” by Cecil F. Alexander, 1848)]]>
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Josh Moody (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is the senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL., president and founder of God Centered Life Ministries, and author of several books including How the Bible Can Change Your Life and John 1-12 For You.
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