“He [Jesus] was born in a barn to show what God thinks of human pride, of human ambition, of human loftiness,
of human hardness…of those who turn to religion only because of what they think it can do for them…
of those who always insist on having a place at the high table and are miserable when others are put before them…
of those personal jealousies and those family feuds that mar the fellowship with God.”
God with us. Emmanuel.
Of all the powerful, wonderful names for our God, I think Emmanuel is my favorite. Encompassing His limitless divinity and His incredible humanity, Emmanuel is the name of the Savior who came to the undeserving and undesirable, to make us His.
When Christmas comes each year, I love celebrating His coming. But this year, I keep thinking about how Emmanuel is the way to communion.
But, what is communion?
Communion, much like our word community, stems from the Latin word communionem, originally derived from the word for common. Communion means “fellowship, mutual participation, a sharing,” according to this etymology site.
Today, we call the Lord’s Table “Communion,” but in reality, our taking of the bread and cup are only a tiny of piece or symbol of the true communion we have because of Christ’s death and resurrection. We remember that we too are “crucified with Christ, but nevertheless” live (Galatians 2:20). In Christ, our body of sin has been conquered and we have been raised as new creatures.
But, long before land, water, grass, daisies, diamonds, or time, there was communion.
God, as three distinct persons, communed with Himself. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit had an eternity past of unceasing pleasure, power, and majesty, exulting in each other’s company.
But God purposed to institute boundaries in the boundlessness of eternity. He spoke time and light and matter into being. He shouted out for planets to spin into motion and stars to begin their ages of twinkling. He called for birds to stretch newly-spoken wings and fish to dive in newly-wet seas.
And then He breathed on dust. Worth sprang from worthlessness, all because of His exhale. He shaped an image-bearer, one made to find ultimate satisfaction only in His presence. Then, because He could and wished to do it, He made another image bearer, a woman this time. She, too, was made to find joy in God.
But, even from the beginning, God set into motion the breadth and depth of communion: not only was mankind made to be with Him, but each human was made to be with other humans. Just as the Trinity fellowships eternally, God created His people to do the same.We were made for community.
Sin, however, destroys communion.
Think about it. In pride, I set myself on a pedestal. In greed, I push anyone out of the way to get what I want. In desire, I trample the needs of others to satisfy my own lust.
Do you see our isolation?
We all seek our own way. Marriages crumble. Siblings stop speaking. Friends turn traitors. Churches split apart. We run to our rooms, our homes, our shopping malls, our entertainment and shut out the world–because it’s just too hard to fight for togetherness when the world is so full of sin.
So we give up. We stop trying. We let the relationships fade. We let the doors slam. We lock our own doors and think “Good riddance.”
This is why God sent His son into the world: to save the sinners driven away by their own self-destructing natures.
This is why there is Christmas.
Jesus came to the wandering and the lonely and the lost and He made a family for us: His Bride the Church.
The work that he completed 33 years after the first Christmas took away the power of sin to isolate us. God’s presence is no longer closed off to us. We have access to Him, and through Him, the means of communion with one another.
So, we are to be about our Father’s business, bringing others into this communion:
“All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
– 2 Corinthians 5:18-21, ESV –
Our culture is drowning in isolation. For them, commercial Christmas is full of gap-widening greed and memories of lost relationships.
But true Christmas–true Communion–is God’s grace breaking down the walls of isolation we’ve built for ourselves. Abiding in Him, we extend our fellowship to fellow believers. And, just as Jesus came to us, we have to go out, bringing in the lost and lonely into communion with the God who is with us…Emmanuel.
“We can never hope to capture the Christmas spirit and make it our own unless we understand that God is so much greater than we ever thought He was. We thought we knew all about God. The incarnation proved us wrong.”
– Dan Schaeffer –