Christmas Presence

by Rev. Steven B. Borst

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Photo © istockphoto.com/fstop123

When we were children, Christmas was about presents. The beautifully wrapped gifts under the tree—trimmed with ribbon, bows, and name tags—captivated our imagination. As Christmas Day drew near, the anticipation became almost unbearable as we dreamed about what those pretty packages might actually produce.

Now that we are older, Christmas still might be about presents, but it is the giving that gives us joy. When we discover that perfect present and wrap it with care, our anticipation grows for the moment our loved one will unwrap it and get a first glimpse of his or her gift.

This is certainly our heavenly Father’s perspective of Christmas. “Every good and perfect gift is from above” (James 1:17). It gives God great joy to give to us, and His present at Christmas is His Christmas presence! God imparts Immanuel, and through His Son wrapped in human flesh, He makes His dwelling among us.

Incarnation Expectation

This amazing gift comes with great anticipation, as it was first promised in the eighth century B.C. The circumstances couldn’t have been bleaker for the people of God. King Ahaz, a 20–something king, ruled over Judah. Young and brash, he engaged in all kinds of pagan practices. When his kingdom was besieged by invaders from the north, Ahaz turned to his enemy, the Assyrians, instead of the Almighty for help.

Read Is. 7:10–14.

Ahaz literally means “God holds fast,” yet he doubted God’s presence and protection. What offer does God give him to bolster his faith (v. 11)?
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Ahaz had already made up his mind to make a secret deal with the Assyrians. How is his rejection of God’s offer decorated in false piety (v. 12)?
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How are we like Ahaz? When we face trials, where do we place our trust?
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Isaiah foretells of a future faithful king (v. 14). How does His name contrast with Ahaz’s doubt?
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Immanuel Indeed!

God makes good on His prophetic promise through the sending of His Son. By the time Jesus was born, there was no longer a king of Judah. God had cut down the Davidic monarchy because it had grown even more unfaithful. In Christ, however, God Himself establishes His throne forever.
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Read Matt. 1:18–25. What important point is made in verse 18? What part of the Apostles’ Creed does this support?
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Why will the child be called Jesus (v. 21)? Why would Immanuel have to be with us in bodily form to accomplish this?
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Read John 1:1–14. Immanuel is described in great detail in the first five verses. What is His identity (vv. 1–2)? His activity (v. 3)? His ability (vv. 4–5)?
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Verses 9–11 make clear that even today many are like King Ahaz. How? In this hectic season, do you fail to recognize Him?
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God’s presence is not philosophical. It’s physical! How does v. 14 emphasize this? What two things does His presence bring in our lives?
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Let God bolster your faith through His presence promises: 1 John 4:4; Phil. 1:6; Rom. 8:28–39.
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A Prayer for Presence

O holy Child of Bethlehem,
Descend to us, we pray;
Cast out our sin, and enter in,
Be born in us today.
We hear the Christmas angels,
The great glad tidings tell;
O come to us, abide with us,
Our Lord Immanuel! (LSB 361:4)

About the Author: Rev. Steven B. Borst is senior pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church and School, Riverside, Calif.

December 2010

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