In the classic old Sunday Cartoon “Calvin and Hobbs,” Calvin is in the
overstuffed chair with his back to the reader. The TV is bouncing wildly on the
stand. Calvin’s dad is behind him looking over his shoulder at the Television.
“Oh look, Calvin’s father says, “yet another Christmas TV special. How touching
to have the meaning of Christmas brought to us by cola, fast food, and beer
conglomerates. Who’d have ever guessed product consumption, popular
entertainment and spirituality would mix so harmoniously, it’s a beautiful world, all
After his dad leaves the room and without ever looking up from the set Calvin
says, “Dad doesn’t handle the season’s stress very gracefully.”
Bill Waterston, the creator of the strip, made an excellent point. Consumerism,
entertainment and spirituality really are strange bedfellows.
How did we come to this? Is this where we should be? Maybe a better question
is how do we get back to the point.
The whole purpose of Christmas can be summarized with one word: Emmanuel,
which translated means, “God with us.”
Christmas is not about consuming; Christmas is about connecting. God wanted
to connect us with him.
God himself had come in the form of a man to be with his people. And for the
next thirty or so years He was literally with us, showing us, modeling for us,
teaching us his heart and his values. And then when the time was right he
allowed himself to be sacrificed as the perfect offering for sin so that we could
always be with him.
Emmanuel means God was with us so that we could be with God. But there’s
another side to this beautiful word that we sometimes fail to consider. “God with
us” also means that He was connecting with us in a new and fresh way that as
frail human beings we struggle even now to fully understand.
When God said, “I’m with you,” he meant, “I understand.” The image is like
person pouring out his troubles to a buddy and then that friend says, “Man, I
know what you mean. I feel you. I’m with you man.” In other words, “I’m hearing
you and I understand where you are coming from.”
Think about this. When baby Jesus was born that night at Bethlehem for the first
time God experienced discomfort. He felt the pain of birth and the fears of a
child. Like every other baby that struggles to catch its breath in the first moments
of life, God struggled.
Later as he grew into childhood, for the first time, God experienced disgrace. He
felt the pain of ridicule and insults. Jesus was something of a community pariah.
In that buttoned down world of the first century Jews, Jesus’ parentage was
questionable. Sure, Mary and Joseph said that God had done it, but who really
believed that cockamamie tale? I mean c’mon. Everyone in Nazareth knew that
Jesus was illegitimate. For the first time God felt shame.
During the teenage years hormones coursed through his veins and Jesus felt
temptation. No question. For the first time, God was tempted to sin.
Throughout his life Jesus was learning the unique pains, struggles, and anxieties
associated with being a human being.
The life in the skin allowed God to empathize with your pain.
Hebrews said it like this, “This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses,
for he faced all of the same temptations we do, yet he did not sin” (Heb 4:15
God isn’t some distant cold creator who wound the universe into motion like a
clockmaker and then stepped back to watch it run. He is intimate and aware,
and he empathizes with us.
I love the phrase out of the classic Oh Little town of Bethlehem where it says,
“The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.” All of our hopes
and fears really did come to meet him. Emmanuel. God is with you. He knows