Christmas 2010 - The Gift of God's Presence

Christmas time is known as a time of giving in many parts of the world. Those who have been influenced by the followers of Christ down through the ages often exchange gifts with friends and family around Christmas day. Sometimes this is simple family warmth and generosity, but sometimes it is in remembrance of God's gift of His Son in the Incarnation.

God is the original gift-giver, of course, and many of His gifts to us are described in Holy Scripture. The Father is a giver of gifts, the Son is a giver of gifts, and the Holy Spirit is a giver of gifts.

Some of these gifts are about our eternal salvation--our redemption, our forgiveness, our eternal life:

Some of these gifts are important to our hearts, health, and happiness during this life:

Some of His gifts involve pain, persecution, and hardship--but these produce good fruits in our lives and in the lives of those we love:

And then there are His gifts of opportunities and resources to serve Him and others--to spread the message of grace and experience of forgiveness to all:

But there is a special set of gifts which is most appropriate to remember at the holiday in which we celebrate the coming of the Son of God to be born as a baby Jesus so long ago. This set of gifts is almost difficult to believe, because what they reveal about the heart and purposes of God is so beautiful and powerful. It speaks unfathomable love to our hearts, deeply encourages our souls, and provides an transforming experience that will last into eternity.

This set of gifts is about God dwelling inside our hearts, inside our lives, and inside our living community.

In the opening book of the Bible, God created the Garden of Eden and placed the first human couple in it, to care for it. God Himself visited the garden and walked in companionship with Adam and Eve. The beautiful harmony was broken by sin, and we were driven out of the Garden and away from the intimate presence of the good-hearted God.

Since that time, God has provided a way to restore that harmony--through His precious Son the Lord Jesus--and has been constantly inviting us to return to intimacy with Him. He has promised to dwell with us, to live in our midst, and to make His home in our lives.

God's dwelling among us is a consistent theme in scripture, and the description of the New Future--the New Heavens and New Earth described in the last book of the Bible highlight this:

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared. And the sea was also gone. 2 And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. 4 He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” 5 And the one sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new!” And then he said to me, “Write this down, for what I tell you is trustworthy and true.” 6 And he also said, “It is finished! I am the Alpha and the Omega—the Beginning and the End. To all who are thirsty I will give freely from the springs of the water of life. (Re 21:1–6).

This has always been God's intent: to invite us to share His life, to enjoy His companionship, and to experience the richness of His presence. And this He has done, in the gift of His presence in the indwelling of the New Covenant:

This is an amazing truth--that God is somehow present in our lives in a way different from His presence through the universe!

One commentator on this last passage puts it this way:

"Jesus responded by contrasting the reactions of his followers and the world. Jesus would reveal himself to “all who love me” and “do what I say” (14:23). This is the third time obedience is stressed as the key response of the true believer (cf. 14:15, 21). A life molded by Jesus’ teaching is proof positive that one loves him. These are the ones who experience God’s love and to whom Jesus promised that he and the Father would “come and make our home with each of them” (14:23). While Jesus was preparing a future “home” (monē [3438, 3665], 14:2) in heaven, he and the Father would also make a present “home” (14:23) in the life of the believer. This takes place through the Spirit, called both the “Spirit of God” (Rom 8:9a, 14; 1 Cor 6:11) and the “Spirit of Christ” (Rom 8:9b; Phil 1:19; 1 Pet 1:11). As the Spirit indwells the Christian (14:17), he is the presence of the Father and the Son. At the same time, it can also be said that the triune Godhead dwells within the believer! In a very real sense, this is a touch of heaven, an anticipation of the final reality expressed in Revelation 21:3—“Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. " [Osborne, G., & Philip W. Comfort. (2007). Cornerstone biblical commentary, Vol 13: John and 1, 2, and 3 John (216–217). Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.]

May this Christmas season bring you more and more understanding and experience of the presence of God in your life. May you reflect on this reality and understand the implications of it. May you draw strength from this knowledge in times of difficulty and persecution. May you abound in thanksgiving for His presence at your meals, your prayers, your family time, your worship, your work, your Bible reading, your singing--and in the middle of all challenges you face in your life of witness for Him.

Glenn Miller, 2010

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