We get excited about Christmas coming–we put up trees and decorations, and often a manger scene or Creche, with Mary and Joseph and the baby Jesus in the manger. But Jesus didn’t start as a baby. Long before He ever came to Bethlehem, Jesus was one with the Father. He ruled from the heights of Heaven. He saw the first dawn of the first day on Earth. He walked in the Garden with Adam and Eve. He was a witness to all the events leading up to His own birth.
We like to picture Jesus as a baby. We like to picture Him as a man. We like to think of Him as a good teacher. And these are all correct. But we miss the full picture if we never imagine Jesus with God before He ascended to Heaven. The Ascension was Jesus returning to His rightful place, after the work of Salvation was accomplished in chronological, Earthly time. Jesus walked with His disciples. He ate with them, He laughed and talked with them. But He spent His earthly life talking and walking and relating with His Father, too. Nothing separated them, until that moment when Jesus became Sin for us so that we could be restored to a relationship with the Father.
On the Cross, Jesus cried out, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken ME?”(Matthew 27:46 or Mark 15:34). God was not just “sending” His son as an emissary or a benign sacrifice to demonstrate how much He could love us. Jesus came, fully intending to be a living sacrifice. He endured the “imposed” separation of a human body, bound by time and place, separated physically from the glories of Heaven. But this separation– this knowledge of being forsaken, banished to Hell and Death–was what Jesus came to take upon Himself. The one who had eternally existed in loving harmony with the Father and the Spirit, had to be ripped away from Himself, forsaken by the Father and Spirit as one condemned. The one who had lived a perfect life of obedience had to be shunned as one who was unclean and unworthy of life, so that WE could have the right to be adopted as sons and daughters of God. We can be “with God” because He chose to endure the inconceivable pain of the rejection that we deserved. But there is another miracle of the Birth of Jesus that we overlook.
At the moment of Jesus’ birth, He was Emmanuel– God with US. Just by entering into a human existence, God already fulfilled His promise to bring us to Himself. When Jesus ate with His disciples, God was eating with them. When He laughed with them and walked side by side with them, the fullness of God was there. By His death, He continued “with us” to the grave and beyond. There is not a single moment of life –or death– that God, through Jesus, has not experienced and shared with us. In His resurrection, Jesus broke the power of Sin and death to separate us from God. Even the power of God’s justice cannot condemn those who put their trust in the finished work of Jesus, because Jesus has paid the debt in full. There is NOTHING that can ever separate us from God’s love and His loving presence. The Word was with God– and that same Word was with us. That same Word lives with, and in, and through us throughout our days on earth. And, if we have put our faith in this same Emmanuel, we will be “with God” throughout eternity.
I need to meditate on this truth today. Even in the Holiday season, I can feel very separated from God–surrounded by stress and worries; focused on my own struggles and goals; chasing after a temporary joy in the busyness of preparations. Jesus has not forsaken me to return to Heaven– He is no less “with me” for being once again “with God.” No, He doesn’t physically walk beside me and eat with me, or talk audibly to me. But His presence is constant, steady, and promised.
The Word– the same Word that spoke galaxies into being; the same Word that conquered Death and Sin–is “with us!” Today. Every moment! We will never have to cry out, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?” And we know this because Jesus CAME! He didn’t just “say” it. He gave us “His Word.”