The Gift Promised

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Have you ever seen kids tearing into a Christmas present and then being disappointed that what they got wasn’t what they wanted? They may say something like, “This isn’t what I put on my wish list!” 

From the response of the religious leaders in the Gospels, it appears that the gift of Jesus on that original “Christmas morning” was very similar. It’s almost like they were saying, “This isn’t the type of Messiah we wanted!” They wanted someone to give them freedom from the Romans, but their Heavenly Father wanted them to have something far bigger and greater: Eternal freedom from the penalty of sin. 

The first humans had the joy of being innocent in God’s presence, where they had everything they needed. But satan got Adam and Eve to focus on something they wanted, and that sin of disobedience brought an immediate separation. They now feared the nearness of God. 

There were immediate and painful consequences for their sin, but God wanted the heaviest of penalties to fall on Himself. To foreshadow this, God sacrificed an innocent animal to cover their nakedness, showing us what the gift of Jesus would do for us (Genesis 3:1-21). 

In The Holy War, John Bunyan tells the story of the town of Mansoul enslaved to Diabolus. The crafty serpent plays on their fears by reminding them how terrible it would be if they allowed Holy God to come near them while they were in their sinful state: 

“‘Gentlemen,’ quoth he, ‘and my faithful subjects, if it is true that this summoner hath said concerning the greatness of their King, by His terror you will always be kept in bondage, and so be made to sneak. Yea, how can you now, though He is at a distance, endure to think of such a Mighty One? And if not to think of Him while at a distance, how can you endure to be in His presence?’” 

Diabolus even tried to make their slavery to sin look like freedom: “I, your prince, am familiar with you, and you may play with me as you would with a grasshopper. Consider, therefore, what is for your profit, and remember the immunities that I have granted you.’”  

As John Piper reminds us, “Christmas is for freedom.” Indeed, that’s just what we see on the first “Christmas morning” in words like salvation, no fear, and great joy (Matthew 1:21; Luke 2:10-11). 

Turning again to The Holy War, here’s what the Father said to His Son: “Wherefore the King called to Him Emmanuel, His Son, who said, ‘Here am I, My Father.’ Then said the King, ‘Thou knowest, as I do Myself, the condition of the town of Mansoul, and what We have purposed, and what Thou hast done to redeem it. Come now, therefore, My Son, and prepare Thyself.’”  

Immanuel (or the Romanized spelling Emmanuel) is the One who removes the separation caused by our sin, and rejoins us to God. That prefix “im” means with, and the suffix “El” means God. The root word means God’s kinsmen. Immanuel comes to repair what was severed by taking sin’s penalty on Himself, and allowing us to once again enjoy the closeness of kinship with our Heavenly Father (Matthew 1:22-23; Galatians 4:4-7). 

When the people saw this Gift on Christmas morning, they said, “This isn’t what we wanted! We wanted a rich, powerful, conquering King. One who would send the Romans running in fear!” As a result, very few unwrapped this Heavenly Gift. But God reminded them, “That may be what you wanted, but I have given what you need. I want you to have not just temporary freedom from the Romans, but eternal freedom from your sin so that you can be forever in My presence!” 

This is what Jesus rejoiced to do for us with the Gift of His life, death, and resurrection. One more passage from The Holy War tells us, “Then said the King’s Son, ‘Thy law is within My heart: I delight to do Thy will. This is the day that I have longed for, and the work that I have waited for all this while. … I will go and will deliver from Diabolus, and from his power, Thy perishing town of Mansoul. My heart has been often pained within Me for the miserable town of Mansoul; but now it is rejoiced, but now it is glad.’” (The timing for the Incarnation of Jesus and even these words of Immanuel Himself are found in Hebrews 2:14-15; 10:5-7). 

God’s love is too great to be limited to just meeting our wants because in our immaturity and sinfulness we don’t know what we really need—but He does. So His love sent Immanuel to us. 

The Gift was given to us at Christmas, but in our immaturity and shortsightedness, we didn’t realize the full impact of this Gift until Jesus rose victoriously from the grave! Now by placing our faith in His completed work, we can be rejoined to God and live in unshakable hope of an eternity with Him! 

If you would like to follow along with all of the messages in this series called Christmas Unwrapped At Easter, please check out the links I’ve shared here.

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Thursdays With Spurgeon—God With Us

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

God With Us

     ‘And you shall call His name Immanuel.’ …

     This is His name, ‘God with us.’ … He has not lost that name. Jesus had that name on earth, and He has it now in heaven! He is now ‘God with us.’ Believer, He is God with you to protect you! You are not alone, because the Savior is with you! … 

     But if you would know this name most sweetly, you must know it by the teaching of the Holy Spirit. … Unless the Holy Spirit takes the things of Christ and applies them to our heart, it is not ‘God with us.’ Otherwise, God is a consuming fire. …

     Immanuel—it is wisdom’s mystery, ‘God with us.’ Just look at it and wonder. Angels desire to see it. The plumb line of reason cannot reach halfway into its depth. The eagle wings of science cannot fly so high, and the piercing eyes of the vulture of research cannot see it! ‘God with us.’  It is hell’s terror! satan trembles at the sound of it. His legions fly apace; the black-winged dragon of the pit quails before it! Let satan come to you suddenly and do you but whisper that word, ‘God with us,’ and back he falls, confounded and confused! satan trembles when he hears that name, ‘God with us.’ It is the laborer’s strength. How could he preach the gospel, how could he bend his knees in prayer, how could the missionary go into foreign lands, how could the martyr stand at the stake, how could the confessor acknowledge his Master, how could men labor if that one word were taken away? ‘God with us’ is the sufferer’s comfort, it is the balm of his woe, it is the alleviation of his misery, it is the sleep that God gives to His beloved, it is the rest after exertion and toil.

     Ah, and to finish, ‘God with us’ is eternity’s sonnet, it is heaven’s hallelujah, it is the shout of the glorified, it is the song of the redeemed, it is the chorus of angels, and it is the everlasting oratorio of the great orchestra of the sky! ‘God with us!’

From The Birth Of Christ

Jesus is—always was and always will be—God with us! 

Do you know Jesus personally? He wants you to know Him. He came to earth so that you could know Him. His heart’s desire is to be with you today and have you with Him forever! 

If you have questions about this, please send me a message and let’s chat.


The Advent “Nicknames” Of Jesus

Most of us who have nicknames didn’t receive them at birth, but they were given to us later on. It might have been because of a memorable incident, or even a character trait that we are known for.

But think about Jesus. Even before His first Advent, He was given numerous “nicknames” or titles that foretold what He was going to do. In the Christmas carol “O Come O Come Emmanuel” four of Christ’s nicknames/titles are key for us today.

It’s so important for us to look back at these First Advent titles because they give us perspective for today and hope for Christ’s Second Advent.

Paul makes it clear that we are living in a time of both already and not yet. We have redemption (Ephesians 1:7), and we are waiting for the day of redemption (Ephesians 4:30). Jesus has already paid for our freedom (First Advent), but we are still awaiting the rewards that will come with His Second Advent.

O come, O come…

  1. …Emmanuel

Literally, this means “God is with His people.” The prophesy was originally given to the prophet Isaiah (see 7:14 and 8:6-10), but it was repeated when Jesus was born (Matthew 1:23). Only One Who was fully God and fully Man could pay the price for our ransom from sin.

  1. …Rod of Jesse 

David, the son of Jesse, prayed, “Who am I, Sovereign Lord, and what is my family, that You have brought me this far?” (2 Samuel 7:18). Yet God was going to continue to keep David’s family line alive (although at times it looked like the dead stump of a long-forgotten tree) to give a throne to Jesus as the King of kings that would once and for all crush satan’s tyranny.

  1. …Dayspring 

When I think of Dayspring, I think of light exploding immediately into the darkness (Isaiah 9:2 and Luke 1:77-78). Jesus Himself told us of His victory over the darkness: I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have [perfect] peace and confidence. In the world you have tribulation and trials and distress and frustration; but be of good cheer [take courage; be confident, certain, undaunted]! For I have overcome the world. [I have deprived it of power to harm you and have conquered it for you] (John 16:33, AMP).

  1. …Key of David

Only Jesus holds the key to open wide our heavenly home (Isaiah 22:22; Revelation 1:8)!

What do you need? 

  • Ransom? Emmanuel paid it! 
  • Power to defeat satan? The Rod of Jesse gives it! 
  • Encouragement to press on? The Dayspring lavishes it! 
  • Assurance of your eternal home in Heaven? The Key of David opens it! 

All our longings—all our O come! O come!—are satisfied in Jesus. His First Advent is the already, and His Second Advent gives us hope for the not yet.

If you’ve missed any of the other Christmas carols we have already looked at, you can check them out by clicking here.

Is Jesus Immanuel?

Immanuel & sinI’ve read these two passages of Scripture so many times during the telling of the Advent story, but I never saw this apparent mistake. I’ve highlighted the troubling phrases below—

Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with Child and will give birth to a Son, and will call Him Immanuel. (Isaiah 7:14)

But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a Son, and you are you to give Him the name Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:20-21)

Did the angel make a mistake? Was he supposed to tell Joseph “give Him the name Immanuel”? Or maybe Immanuel and Jesus mean the same thing?

The answer to all three of those questions is NO. There wasn’t a mistake; His name should be Jesus; and Immanuel and Jesus don’t mean the same thing.

Immanuel & JesusImmanuel is a cool name, appearing only three times in the Bible. The prefix “im” means with, and the suffix “el” means God. The root word in its broadest sense means people, but when we’re talking about God saving “HIS people from their sins,” the best translation would be His kinsman. Thus Immanuel = with His kinsman God.

Just before giving us the prophesy about Immanuel, Isaiah experienced the horror of being with God. When Isaiah was in God’s presence he said, “Woe is me! I am ruined! For I am a sinful man and I have seen God Almighty” (Isaiah 6:5-6). Here’s the simple fact: Our sin separates us from God’s presence. Jesus (in the Hebrew Yeshua = God saves) is the only One Who could remove the penalty of our sin!

Only Jesus could atone for our sin and remove our guilt (see Isaiah 6:7), so that God could stay with us (Immanuel)! 

Jesus (our salvation) makes Immanuel (with His kinsman God) possible. So as the Christmas carol O Come, O Come, Emmanuel implores us: Rejoice! Rejoice! Immanuel shall come to thee!

May you live in the forgiveness of Jesus and the joy of His Immanuel presence this Christmas season!

If you’ve missed any of the messages in this series, you may check them out by clicking here.

Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus

AdventWe began our series on The Carols Of Christmas by looking at the poem written by Charles Wesley in 1744: Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus. As far as I can find, Wesley never shared where he got his inspiration for this prose, but I have a hunch that it might be from a song in the Bible called The Benedictus.

Zechariah had been unable to speak for nearly a year because of his doubt over the message God sent him through the angel (see Luke 1:5-20). When his son was born and Zechariah named him John, his tongue was loosed and he “was filled with the Holy Spirit” and burst into song (Luke 1:67-79). The first word of his song in Latin is benedictus, from which the name is derived.

Here’s what I love about both Zechariah’s and Wesley’s songs—they both look forward to Christ’s First Advent and His Second Advent. Mary was still pregnant with Jesus when Zechariah sang his song, but his lyrics reflect the Redemption story that Jesus would fulfill as Emmanuel, God with us. Charles Wesley picks up this same theme, rejoicing over Christ’s birth and His imminent return.

In fact, that’s exactly the point! We aren’t celebrating Christmas as much as we are celebrating Advent. Jesus was born “when the time had fully come” for His First Advent (Galatians 4:4-5), and “this same Jesus, Who has been taken from you into Heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen Him go into Heaven” (Acts 1:11). That’s the message that should encourage us (see 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).

Check out the remarkable parallels between the Benedictus and Wesley’s hymn—

Come Thou Long-Expected Jesus & Benedictus

If you’d like to download a PDF of this side-by-side comparison, here it is → Come Thou Long-Expected Jesus & Benedictus ←

If you’ve missed any of the messages in this series, you may check them out by clicking here.

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