We shared an eventful Christmas this year in the Brooks household. Both our girls spent a couple of days with us, and we enjoyed our yearly midnight candlelight worship service at a local church. Then we did something different- after arriving home about 12:30am, we all slept until about 3:30am, then got up to go join a group from our church, Phoenix Community, who were heading to downtown Atlanta to serve Christmas breakfast to about 300 men at the Atlanta Mission homeless shelter.
We all arrived about 4:45am, and helped set up, prepare, and then began serving the men about 6:00am. Over the next couple of hours, we served up breakfast plates, coffee and juice, and spent what time we could chatting up the men, sharing Christmas cheer with them. Their gratitude and friendliness gave us as much, if not more, of that cheer ourselves. It exhausted us, but was so worth it.
I preached Sunday at our Phoenix Buford campus on the beauty and foreshadowing of the gifts the Magi brought, and the power of the Incarnation, something these “wise men from the east” knew well. I’ve come to call the Apostle John’s narrative at the beginning of his book the “Gospel According to Christmas.” Allow me to share his “Christmas story” from chapter 1:
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God from the beginning…
He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not recognize Him. Yet to all who received Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave them the right to become children of God…
The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the One and Only, full of grace and truth.”
John 1:1-2, 10, 12, 14
One of the names attributed to Jesus, from the Old Testament as well as the New, is “Immanuel” which means, “God with us.” He did not just come down among us- He became one of us. Deity clothed Himself in humanity. Divine Spirit put on skin and bones. The Eternal stepped into time and space. Like a military covert operation, the eternal, divine Son of God made an incursion behind enemy lines, dressed as one of us, that He might affect the rescue of the ages. 33.5 years later, the great breakout took place on a hill outside Jerusalem called Golgotha, or “place of the skull.” And after an empty tomb, the gates were opened, true freedom was won, and humankind has never been the same since.
But it all began in a smelly manger, in a little dusty town in Palestine, where “The Word became flesh, and made His dwelling with us.”
May His light and life flood your heart and soul, this holiday and into the new year.