This is the time of year when we look back and remember. We get reminded through conversations with friends, family, and even Facebook reminds us of all our “highlights” from the previous twelve months. We forget so quickly but it is important to remember what we have learned along the way.
In a similar way, this is the time of year when we look back and remember the birth of Jesus. This is the perfect time to remember Jesus. But, we have to be careful where we get our reminders from. The Bible is the perfect reminder of Jesus and His birth into the world.
There are so many truths God has revealed in the Word of God, but during the Christmas season remember these two: Remember Immanuel and Remember the Imago Dei.
All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).
Believing the truth that God is with us (Immanuel) requires faith that we need Him, right here and right now.
Out of all the truths that God has revealed about Himself, this season it is crucial to remember that He is with us. He promises us that He will be with us and He will never leave us on our own (Joshua 1:5). His promise guarantees His presence to be with us during good times and hard, and He will never forsake us when we desperately need Him or when we foolishly believe we do not. He also promises that He will always be with us so we can have faith that He will be there for us until our death (Matthew 28:20). If we have faith in Christ, we are given assurance from God that He will be with us no matter what, non-stop, and until we breathe our last breath.
Believing God is with us is less complicated when we look back (past) and also when we imagine life to come (future). But why? Well, its easy to look back on our lives and see God’s bigger plan for our hardships – and by no means do we fully understand it, but we see some tiny part of His plan. So, when we look back at our pain and suffering it makes it easier to see how God was good in that season. And its easier to believe that God is with us in the future because He has it written down for us how our future will be. Ultimately we know that He has promised that those who believe in Christ for salvation will see Him face-to-face in heaven, so based on His promises in Revelation, it’s already a guaranteed future – eternity with Christ.
Trusting the truth that God is with us becomes much more complicated and difficult when we are in the midst of pain and suffering. And why is that? When we are in the midst of affliction we are much more susceptible to doubting God’s promises. It does not matter if we are the ones experiencing trial or if it is someone we know and love, we are quick to doubt God and claim that this particular affliction is meaningless, or pointless, or certainly not for good. We quickly doubt His promise and run for satisfaction in something that will only us more dissatisfied. This is because we have all fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23) and we worship the creation rather than the Creator (Romans 1:21-25). Trusting in God’s promise that He is with us requires something from God: faith.
The only way we believe that God is with us – and for that to apply to us – is that we have faith in Jesus Christ, by His grace given to us, to be our righteousness before God the Father (Romans 5:1-2). We can then rejoice in our pain and suffering because we know God uses our trials to create endurance, characters, and hope (Romans 5:3-5). So again, remember that God is with you, He will never leave you, and He will be with you until the very end.
This is where you might say, “Amen!” And that’s great, but God made you to do something with this amazing truth.
Remember the Imago Dei
As creatures made in God’s image, we were made to be like him. Therefore the more we understand about God, the more we understand about ourselves. And the more we understand about ourselves, the more we understand about God.
Wayne Grudem in “Christian Beliefs: Twenty Basics Every Christian Should Know”
Rightly understanding Jesus and the Imago Dei drives us to encourage and be with the hurting.
What does Imago Dei mean? It simply means “Image of God,” and especially it refers to the Christian doctrine that human beings are made in the image of God. We are made to be His ambassadors, or representatives, to the world (mirror God and proclaim His reign and rule), and we are called as Christians to live like Jesus did (serve, give grace, extend forgiveness, speak the truth in love, etc). We do this because Jesus “is the image of the invisible God,” – the perfect image of God – so being made in his image is visible in Jesus.
So if God is with us, we are to be with others. And especially in this holiday season, we are called to be with the hurting. Just as Jesus did, we are to live our lives amongst those in the midst of pain and suffering.
First of all, there are many things that Christians, and just people in general, say and do that is flat-out unhelpful and hurtful. Maybe, you are unaware that you say these things, but there a here three kinds of discouraging thing people say: 1. Clichés (“It’ll be okay.” or “I’ll be praying for you.”) 2. Minimizing (“Don’t worry. It’s not that bad.” or “This is nothing. I know someone…”) 3. Blame (“I saw this coming.” or “God’s probably punishing [person].”) And the other thing you might not notice is that you have been absent for someone hurting. It could be that you know someone is hurting and you haven’t attempted anything or you could’ve started helping in the immediate aftermath, but then you fade away back into normalcy. Discouragement and absence are the most common responses, and this is behavior is ungodly and unloving.
In light of knowing what not to do, what should you do? Start by being an encouraging friend. If you don’t know to the right thing to say (which you probably don’t), you can encourage them by eating with them and by meeting their needs. Jesus ate with people who as a way of showing love and acceptance, and He also met people’s needs when it was clear to Him (ie. feeding 5,000 hungry people). Eat with people and meet their needs.
[Side Note: Be generous and thoughtful. It can make the difference in your attempts to encourage the hurting]
Maybe the most important you can do for those who in the midst of pain and suffering is to give yourself, your time and love. Just as people need to know that God is with them, they also need us to be with them. People need friends to be with them and stay with them, so your God-given responsibility looks like you being there and staying there. And just like God is with us and will never leave us in our time of need, we are to be present in their lives and never leave in their time of need. You are made in the image of God and so are they, so start loving them as fellow image bearers of God.
This Christmas season you called to know the truth that God is with us, and you are also called to love others out of your identity as a human being made in God’s image. Just as God is with the hurting in this season, you are called to be with the hurting.
Immanuel was born sinless, lived sinless, died sinless, and rose from the grave. He then sent the Holy Spirit to live inside us and empower us to fight sin, live like Christ, and preach that the good news of salvation.
He did that for me and you.
Remember that. Now let’s go and remind the world.