What is Immanuel…?

Immanuel…

It’s an intriguing concept.  It’s what separates the Christian faith from all other religions.  It’s what separates faith from religion, period (including the ‘religion’ of Christianity)! You see, religion is man’s way of searching for meaning.  It’s the actions of a humanity seeking its creator… reaching out to something more than what we know or comprehend.  Religion is a set of actions by which the created attempts to please the creator. It’s the songs we sing, the books we write and read, the way we pray, the style of the message we preach.  Religion is all about us and what we do. Because of this, religion always falls short.  We can never *prove* anything.  We can never quite *touch* the divine.  We can never hear the answers to our questions.  We can never ‘do it’ just right.  Hence thousands of religions, denominations, arguments over worship style… all thinking they have all the answers right.  Religion [i] creates one of two kinds of people: those fanatically devoted to a search for a higher power, and those left empty and disappointed.

Immanuel…

It just kind of hangs there… especially at Christmas time.  It’s the key concept of the month of December… railed against by non-believers, cherished by those who wear His name.  Religion doesn’t need it, but faith cannot exist without it.  Faith is different, you know.  It isn’t any blatant act on our part to please God.  It is simply trusting what you know.  It’s believing that what has been, will be.  It’s depending on promises being kept because the One who made them has always kept them.  Faith is quiet and still.  It is comfort and peace in the knowledge that it isn’t in our control… and that’s alright.  It is never fanatical, and never disappoints.  Why not?  How can I say that when so many have been left empty and disappointed by ‘the church’?

Immanuel…

God with us… think about that for a minute.  When else has anyone claimed that a god chose to come and live an entire lifetime as a man… better yet, to die as a man? No glory, no grandeur… not even a home of His own?  If you look closely, you’ll find that those who have been disappointed by ‘the church’… haven’t.  They’ve been disappointed by the religious people who have co-opted The Church.  The Church isn’t an institution, a dogma or a building.  Scripture describes her as a bride.  She’s described as having one body with many parts.  Scripture also says that when Christ, the bridegroom, comes to collect her, He’ll barely be able to find her[ii]  We make a mistake when we place our trust in the church… when we place our trust in people.  Those who are empty and disappointed ended up that way because their confidence was in the institution.  They trusted the religion, the people.  Religion doesn’t need Immanuel.  It’s all about us… trying to reach God.  It fails.

Immanuel…

Why would He come?  A friend in Sunday School gave this analogy… I’m expanding it.  Let’s say you had an ant farm.  You began with about five ants and grew your colony.  You cared for the ants and became quite attached to them as the colony grew.  Eventually it became so large that you knew you needed to release the ants. You proudly watched as your ants marched confidently into the future… then you saw the highway.  They were headed straight for it.  The cars zoomed by, but the ants marched confidently to their death completely unaware of the danger.  You shouted at them, “Stop!  Turn back!  If you go that way you’ll die!”  But the ants can’t relate to you.  They can’t see the danger that you see.  So they ignore you.  So you choose to become an ant.  It’s the only way you can show them.  You become an ant, but no ordinary ant.  The other ants aren’t real sure where you came from- your birth was exceptional.  You can splint a broken leg so it heals and the colony no longer has to leave injured ants to die.  You can make medicine for sick ants and they get better.  You have knowledge and abilities that are exceptional.  After a while, some of the ants begin to follow you.  You tell the colony, “I know things you don’t know!  Your way leads to death!  Come, follow me!”  And some do… but many don’t.  Many insist on doing things their way.  They continue their march… straight into the highway.

Immanuel…

He came.  He experienced dirty diapers, scraped knees, and lost teeth.  He probably hit His thumb once or twice with the hammer while helping out His adoptive dad in the carpentry shop.  He got hungry and thirsty.  His muscles cramped.  He knew how it felt to be taunted, disappointed, disbelieved. He knew life. He knew death.  But He could see beyond it.  And He came so that we can too.

Immanuel: God with us.  He came.  He gave us evidences to believe.  He showed us the way.  He invites us to follow Him.

Annotations:


[i] James 1:27: Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.