God with Us

IMG_0808 Bethlehem pilgrims_poster-1Pilgrims waiting at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem



O come, Thou Rod of Jesse,

free thine own

from Satan’s tyranny

From depths of Hell Thy people save

And give them victory o’er the grave



Emmanuel shall come to thee,

O Israel.

O come, Thou Day-Spring,

come and cheer our spirits

by Thine advent here

Disperse the gloomy clouds of night

and death’s dark shadows put to flight.



Emmanuel shall come to thee,

O Israel.

(From the ancient hymn, Oh Come, Oh Come, Emmanuel)

 When we were in Israel the behaviour of some of the people in the crowds surprised me. I realize the concept of standing in line and waiting patiently is not one common to all cultures, but some folks seemed quite desperate to touch sacred sites. They pushed and shoved and cut ahead as if they feared there might not be enough to go around and they had to get there first. I watched some women hungrily rub the stone in this church of the Nativity upon which (it is said) the Virgin gave birth. I watched as they traced the cracks on worn pavement and then rubbed their hands over their own bodies as if there was power in the place.

Jesus said his followers would worship, not on this mountain nor on that mountain, but in spirit and truth. He said people searched the scriptures looking for salvation, but the scriptures point to him. Today some people still practise rituals and recite certain prayers and seek miracles and wonders and signs hoping for salvation, but signs point to something -or Someone. They are meant to draw our attention to a person -Jesus Christ. John wrote that this is the sign of a true Christian, that they believe, they love, and they obey God because Holy Spirit lives in them.

And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. The one who keeps God’s commands lives in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us. (1 John 3:23, 24)

Paul wrote: And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13)

The purpose of many festivals and holy days in Old Testament times was to help people remember the One who brought them out of  slavery and tyranny.  With Christ living in us, going to the sites of so many wonderful Bible stories can be a wonderful enriching experience. Without Christ, the trappings of religion become tyranny themselves.

Emmanuel means “God with us.” He came to set his people free.

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