A Christmas Message from our Superintendent, Bishop Mike Ainsworth

Immanuel: Our God Has Not Distanced Himself

With social distancing, limited gatherings and travel restrictions, Christmas is certain to feel very different this year. But the first Christmas didn’t happen like anyone had planned either. Joseph and Mary were unmarried, about to have a baby and traveling to an unfamiliar town with no available rooms. Still, the first Christmas happened anyway – and it will happen for us, too. This unconventional Christmas will draw us deeper into the true meaning of Christmas: that no matter what, God always finds a way to come to us.

The Christmas narrative is really about Christmas journeys, isn’t it? In addition to the journey of Joseph and Mary to the city of Bethlehem, the Gospel of Luke in particular, tells us about the journey of the Angels from heaven to earth to announce good news to the Shepherds, and later, the journey of the Wise men who brought gifts and worshiped the Christ. The most important journey, however, is that most stunning and significant fact in the history of the world – the coming of Christ, the Messiah from heaven to earth. The Psalmist declared:

“Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice; 
let the sea roar, and all that fills it; 
let the field exult, and everything in it! 
Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy 
before the Lord, for he comes, 
for he comes to judge the earth. 
He will judge the world in righteousness, 
and the peoples in his faithfulness.”
(Psalm 96:11–13)

We know, according to the Scriptures, that Christmas was God’s idea. Christmas did not originate on this earth, it originated in heaven in the heart of God. We also know that in the Bible, Christmas is announced by God in the Old Testament. The whole Bible could basically be summarized in three sentences. In the Old Testament, He is coming. In the gospels, He has come. In the rest of the Bible, He is coming again!

Isaiah foretells the wonderful Miracle of His Coming“Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign, behold a virgin shall conceive and bear a son and shall call his name Emanuel.”(Isaiah 7:14) Luke records the fulfillment of this prophecy. “The Holy Spirit shall come upon thee and the power of the highest shall overshadow thee and therefore also that holy thing which is born of thee shall be the Son of God.” (Luke 1:35)

Micah gives the prophecy about the Meaning of His Coming“But thou Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall He come forth unto me that is a to be a ruler in Israel, whose going forth have been from of old, from everlasting.” Luke 2:10-11 records the fulfillment of the promise: “And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings (gospel) of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David (Bethlehem) a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.”

Christmas is about the coming of our Savior! In a dream, the angel had told Joseph, “And she shall bring forth a son and thou shall call His name Jesus for He shall save His people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21) That is exactly what the world needed then and it is still what the world needs today. The world doesn’t need another philosopher, politician, celebrity or sports hero. What the world needs is a Savior. And when Jesus was born, a Savior was born! He is your Savior! He is my Savior! He is the Savior of the world!

  • When John the Baptist saw the Lord Jesus Christ coming to the river of Jordan to be baptized John said, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”(John 1:29)
  • Jesus himself told the crowd in John 6:38, “For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.”
  • In John 10:7-10, he told them, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep. All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture. The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.”
  • Jesus told the Greeks, who had joined the crowd to hear him “I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness.” John 12:46
  • The Apostle Paul told Timothy, “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.” 1 Timothy 1:15

It’s Such a simple yet powerful message – we celebrate Christmas because Jesus came! Our God has not distanced Himself from us. He is Immanuel, God With Us!

One of my favorite Christmas songs is “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” Translated by John Mason Neale:

O come, O come, Immanuel, 
and ransom captive Israel 
that mourns in lonely exile here 
until the Son of God appears. 
Rejoice! Rejoice! Immanuel 
shall come to you, O Israel.

O come, O Wisdom from on high, 
who ordered all things mightily; 
to us the path of knowledge show 
and teach us in its ways to go.

O come, O come, great Lord of might, 
who to your tribes on Sinai’s height 
in ancient times did give the law 
in cloud and majesty and awe.

O come, O Branch of Jesse’s stem, 
unto your own and rescue them! 
From depths of hell your people save, 
and give them victory o’er the grave.

O come, O Key of David, come 
and open wide our heavenly home. 
Make safe for us the heavenward road 
and bar the way to death’s abode.

O come, O Bright and Morning Star, 
and bring us comfort from afar! 
Dispel the shadows of the night 
and turn our darkness into light.

O come, O King of nations, bind 
in one the hearts of all mankind. 
Bid all our sad divisions cease 
and be yourself our King of Peace.

And don’t forget, the last time Jesus gives a reason for His coming is also significant. It refers to His second coming! “And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to everyone according to his work” (Revelation 22:12).

Trisha and I wish you and your family a very Merry Christmas!