I heard a Christmas song the other day with the refrain "a baby came and everything changed." As I reflected on the lyrics, I knew the idea in them was true, but I wondered if Jesus’s coming really did change how we live life.
Before Jesus’s birth, God was external to humans; His presence being confined to a "fixed location." To meet with Him meant going to the temple and communicating through a priest. At times there was awareness of His presence outside the temple, but it wasn’t something consistent. It would come and then leave.
For humanity, God was unreachable, unknowable, scary, and mysterious. Humans tried to reach God through doing more right and less wrong. Failure in their efforts to be better communicated there was something wrong with them. These failures were also used to define them. If they lied, they were a liar. If they sinned, they were a sinner.
As I thought about today, years after Jesus’s coming, I realized we’ve continued to act like people did before His arrival. God is still talked about as though He’s external to humans. His presence is associated with specific locations like churches and serene places in nature. To meet with Him seems to require going to one of these spots. Once there, He’s invited to come, and sadly, thought to leave if He’s unhappy about something.
Many don’t believe they’re worthy to interact directly with Him. They try to connect with Him through others they feel are more holy, or they work to be good enough to enter His presence. And, many today, just like those that failed before Jesus came, end up defining themselves by their failures. They’re comfortable being identified as sinners, unworthy, unrighteous, and wicked.
Are you seeing, as I did, that the way we live today isn’t much different from the way people lived before His coming? That’s why I felt the refrain of the Christmas song would be truer if it said "a baby came and not much changed."
God’s intention was that everything should change. We’re generally aware of the changes to our past through the forgiveness of sins and our future now being in heaven. But, we’ve missed how Jesus’s coming is to change our present day living.
His coming meant God no longer had to be external but could become internal if we would receive Him into ourselves (John 1:12, Colossians 1:27); becoming a temple for Him (1 Corinthians 6:19); and joined with Him at the deepest part of our being—our spirit (1 Corinthians 6:17). What a change! No longer tied to a location, or His coming and going, but always with Him every moment of every day (Deuteronomy 31:6, Hebrews 13:5).
For God to be internal also meant Jesus’s coming had to make us able to be in God’s presence. Before His coming, those who weren’t able usually died. But because He came, we’re changed completely (2 Corinthians 5:17); made able to stand blameless (Jude 24); freed from sin (Romans 6:22); worthy (2 Thessalonians 1:5); righteous (Romans 5:19); and holy (Hebrews 10:10). No more need for us to keep our distance!
So, my prayer for you this Christmas is that you celebrate His coming and that it’s changed everything, particularly how you live life with Him today—always together and never separated!
As I shared in my last letter to you, 2016 marked ELM’s 30th year of ministry. We’ve held events in seven states, had opportunity on the radio, sent nearly 6,000 monthly letters of encouragement to 49 of the 50 states, and equipped others (through our upper levels of training) who are now equipping others. In addition, our staff has spent hundreds of individual hours with hurting people, sharing spiritual answers.Also, when I last wrote, I mentioned that during the year it’s not my practice to make financial requests of you in these letters. However, knowing that many of you make preparations to give special year end gifts, I asked if would you prayerfully consider giving a gift to Exchanged Life Ministries. There’s still time. And, if you’re so lead, we’d be honored to have you partner with us in making 2017 another great year!
His name is Immanuel—God with (within) us (Matthew 1:23)! Merry Christmas, that changes everything!
Mike Roncaglia, Executive Director