If you were to come over to my house at Christmastime, you would notice a number of fairly large wrapped gift boxes sitting near the front door of our home. These gloriously decorated boxes have all the color of Christmas. They have all the glitter and shine associated with the most materialistic holiday of the season. They're all tied up with great big bows.
There's only one problem. These boxes are empty. If someone were to steal them when we were gone, they would be stealing nothing more than decorations. The packages show all the fanfare of Christmas but have no meaning or value inside.
These packages are like a lot of Christians today. They dress to the nines for church and carry a Bible under their arm. They sometimes quote a verse or two and may even teach Sunday school. Yet if we were to peel away the paper, tape, and bows, we wouldn't be able to locate the vibrant, abundant life of Jesus Christ within.
And without Jesus, Christianity is just another religion among many. After all, He is the very essence of God who came to take away the sins of the world and reveal the Father to us in the flesh. He is God with us. Immanuel.
The record of Jesus's birth includes these words (from Matthew 1:21-23):
'... She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.' All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 'The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel' (which means 'God with us').
The essence of this passage and of the historical event it records isn't merely the birth of a baby. The essence is that God became a baby. God was in the crib. We read about this in a prophecy found in Isaiah 9:6: "For to us a child is born, to us a son is given."
In the book of Hebrews we're privy to a conversation between God the Father and Christ the Son. In it, they talk about Christ coming to earth as a man to do the Father's will.
When Christ came into the world, he said, "Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; with burnt offering and sin offerings you were not pleased. Then I said, 'Here I am—it is written about me in the scroll—I have come to do your will, my God'" (10:5-7).
Jesus came not only to do the Father's will but also to represent God the Father so that we would know what it's like to have God with us, as the name Immanuel proclaims. In Colossians 1:15, the apostle Paul writes that Jesus is "the image of the invisible God." Hebrews 1:3 describes Jesus as the "the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of His being," And the Gospel of John begins, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God ... The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us ... No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is Himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, He has made Him known" (1:1,14,18).
Jesus Christ is Immanuel, God with us. He is the very representation and likeness of God, sent to show us the beauty and majesty of the King. Jesus Christ didn't make His debut on that first Christmas morning in Bethlehem. He existed before creation, "in the beginning," In fact, "Through Him all things were made" (John 1:3). Even when we look back to the book of Genesis, we read that God said, "Let us make mankind in Our image" (Genesis 1:26), referencing the presence of Christ.
The "Word" John is writing of when he opens his gospel presentation is none other than Jesus Christ. We know this because verse 14 tells us, "The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us." Imagine the depth of that reality. The Word, who is God, came down to dwell among us.
Jesus walked among us. He was flesh, bones, sinew, and blood, and yet He was also perfectly divine. At one moment He was hungry because He was fully human, and the next moment He miraculously fed 5000 because He was fully God. He could be thirsty because He was fully human, but He could walk on water because He was fully God.
Because Jesus was fully human, He could grow in knowledge, but because He was fully God, He also knew what people were thinking. One moment Jesus agonized on a cross and died because He was fully human. Three days later, He rose from the grave because He was fully God.
"God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him" (Colossians 1:19). Without Immanuel—Jesus—we would have no chance of fully understanding God. "No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is Himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father has made Him known" (John1:18).
How does God make Himself known? Through Immanuel, God with us. To understand and know Jesus is to understand and know God.
Philip had been one of Jesus' disciples for almost three years when he came up with an interesting request. "Show us the Father and that will be enough for us" (John 14:8).
Jesus' answer puts His purpose in perspective. "Don't you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father" (verse 9).
Jesus took everything there is to know about God and put it on display. He is the complete revelation of God Himself. That's why you can't go around Jesus and get to God. He is the only begotten Son. Buddha, Mohammed, Confucius … no mere prophet, teacher, or king can make that claim. "I am the way and the truth and the life," Jesus says. "No one comes to the Father except through Me" (John 14:6).
The center of our existence
The most unique person in human history—God in the flesh—deserves the highest place on our priorities. He should be our everything. As the earth revolves around the sun, so should our lives revolve around Christ, the center of our existence. As my favorite song by my favorite group, the Temptations, tells it plainly, we should also be singing to Jesus, "You're My Everything."
Knowing Him immediately and personally will radically change your life. Merely knowing about Him won't do much good. For example, I know about the president. I can tell you his name. I can even tell you his address. I can tell you some information I've learned about him from the media. But that hardly qualifies me to say that I know him.
In order to truly know Jesus Christ, you must experience Him personally. Abide with Him. Hang out in His presence and feel His heartbeat. Discover what brings Him pleasure—what He wants to do with, in, and through you.
When you give all of you to all of Him, He is there to return all of Him to all of you. The power that created the universe is the same power that can strengthen you to grow, change, and experience unspeakable satisfaction.
Jesus has a plan for you. He has a purpose. He has a path. If you want to know your purpose, get to know the one who knows it best. The closer you get to Jesus, the closer you are to experiencing and fulfilling your destiny.
Adapted from The Power of God's Names. Copyright © 2014 by Tony Evans. Published by Harvest House Publishers, Eugene, Oregon. harvesthousepublishers.com. Used with permission.
Looking for help or inspiration this Christmas? FamilyLife offers several resources to help your family focus on Christ during your Christmas celebration. The Ever Thine Home® Christmas collection includes ornaments and other decorations help you honor Christ and proclaim your faith. The 12 Names of Christmas™ ornaments are designed to help you teach your children about Jesus is and why He came to live among us. And in When Christmas Came, Barbara Rainey reveals the substance of Christmas in poignant prose and vivid watercolors.