“The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and the will call him Immanuel – which means God with us.”
In the Christmas story, Matthew reminds us of the prophecy recorded by Isaiah hundreds of years earlier. What an amazing thing, that God would be with us. This is the ultimate in cross cultural missions, God leaving the glory of heaven to come to earth. Even more so, he left the privileges appropriate to the all powerful creator of the universe to become a helpless baby. In the letter to the Philippians, Paul reminds us that Christ “being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:6-8). This is the great miracle of Christmas, that God didn’t just send a savior, he came to be with us.
I was reminded of the power of being with people on my trip to Nigeria in May. We had gone to train about 50 Nigerians in Community Health Evangelism. At the end of our week of training, we asked each of them to share something about their experience. Many of them talked about something they had learned. However, one of the most powerful things that was shared was this: “I saw humility in practical terms. They (Larry and David) at garre with us. When we go to the community we need to humble ourselves too.” Garre is a traditional Nigerian food made of cassava that is a staple starch, like we use potatoes or other cultures use rice. Just the simple act of eating together their food with them made an impact. It said that we were with them.
This is one reason I still believe in short-term missions. Some argue that for all the financial resources it takes to send short-term teams, we would be better off just sending the money. I certainly think that we need to be good stewards of the resources God gives and that there are times where the best thing may be to send funds in lieu of a mission team. However, relationships matter. There is something that happens when we go to be with people that can never happen when we just send funds. That lesson was reinforced in for me in Nigeria in May.
That is also one of the great lessons of Christmas. God came to be with us. Don’t miss him this Christmas. And don’t miss him throughout the year. Though Jesus came and later returned to the Father, he sent the Holy Spirit to continue to be with us. In John 14:15 Jesus says “And I will ask the father and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever”. He is speaking of the Holy Spirit and we have access to him right now if we just ask. “If you who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:13)
I pray that this Christmas season that you will truly celebrate and worship the God who came to be with us. I pray that you will be filled with the Holy Spirit as never before. And as He leads, I pray that you will consider joining us in his mission to be with people around the world who need to learn about this God who came to be with us at Christmas.