Whether or not the liturgical calendar is even on your radar, we hope these devotions give you an opportunity to think about the incarnation, the reason Jesus came, and afford you the opportunity to dialogue with your family and others about the glory and greatness of Christ our treasure and King.
Christmas is not a commanded holiday for the Christian. Lots of believers throughout history have not only not celebrated Christmas but even advocated against Christmas because of its association with Rome, or Paganism, or the greed of this world.
Christmas can certainly be abused, but for me, it serves as a wonderful season to reflect on many important truths of Scripture like prophecy, the incarnation, the gospel, and in today’s post, the presence of Christ.
Zephaniah 3:15–17 says,
The LORD has taken away the judgments against you;
he has cleared away your enemies.
The King of Israel, the LORD, is in your midst;
you shall never again fear evil.
On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem:
“Fear not, O Zion;
let not your hands grow weak.
The LORD your God is in your midst,
a mighty one who will save;
he will rejoice over you with gladness;
he will quiet you by his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing.
In today’s post, we want to focus today on that phrase in vv. 15 and 17 that says “Yahweh is in your midst.” Now, what is God reminding His people here? He is reminding them that even in difficult times, even in times where He is punishing them in the Old Testament, He has not abandoned them. Yahweh is King and He is in the midst of His people.
Christmas is about Jesus. Jesus comes from a Hebrew word that means ‘Yahweh is salvation’ or ‘Yahweh saves.’ God saves through Jesus. And how does this happen? Because God Himself is in our midst.
And that’s what I want to look at today. The Lord promises His presence in Zephaniah 3:15–17, and we see that promise ultimately fulfilled in Christ. The best thing about Christmas is the presence.
The Lord is in our midst in that:
He Became One of Us
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see, Hail the incarnate Deity
Pleased with man as man to dwell, Jesus our Immanuel
Jesus is one Person with two natures. He is 100% God and 100% Man. “Remaining what He was, He became what He was Not” (Gregory of Nazianzus). That is, the 2nd Person of the Trinity, the eternal Son of God, clothed Himself in human flesh in the womb of Mary, conceived by the Holy Spirit.
Jesus is God in the flesh. This is Yahweh in our midst. God is in our midst in that He became One of us. Jesus had a human mind, heart, will. He ate, drank, slept, learned. The ruler of the universe humbled Himself by taking on the form of a servant.
He Suffered with Us
Zephaniah 3:15 says God has taken away judgments. The only way for God to take away our judgments is by first suffering with us. The God-Man lived a perfect life for us, but He did not do so in some perfect environment. He came to suffer alongside of us. He stepped down into a fallen world (see Hebrews 2:17–18, 4:15).
Jesus entered into our suffering. Jesus identifies with our suffering. Jesus knows what human sorrow, pain, and suffering are like. He can actually relate to us because He suffered with us.
Some people say “If God is real, why does He allow human suffering…” I understand that’s a big question. And I don’t mean to gloss over it. But I do want to show us the reality that God entered into human suffering. Jesus understands betrayal, loss, injustice, unkindness, unrighteousness, corruption, because He suffered with us yet without sin. We do not serve a God who says “You’ve messed up, I hope you can fix it.” We serve a God who says “You’ve sinned, and the only way to fix is it is for me to deal with it.”
And that’s what Christ has done by first becoming man and suffering with us. But that’s not all. Not only does Jesus suffer with us, thirdly, the Lord is in our midst in that:
He Suffered as Us
Jesus didn’t merely become a man to see what it was like to be a Man of Sorrows, acquainted with grief. Christmas isn’t just about the incarnation. You see, Jesus became a man not only to live for us, but also to die for us, or to say it another way, to die as us (2 Cor. 5:21).
This is the focal point of God taking on human flesh: that He could be the propitiation for our sins — that is, the wrath satisfying sacrifice. On the cross, Jesus takes our place. On the cross, God treats Jesus like He were us so that by faith, He treats us as though we are Christ.
God hasn’t sent someone else to do His work for Him. God Himself is with us, and He has suffered with us, for us, and as us. Christ has entered into suffering and dealt a death blow to Satan and all evil. True, we may experience evil now, but the cross reminds us that evil does not have the final say.
Christmas reminds us that in the midst of darkness there is light. There is hope. Jesus has conquered. Jesus has the victory over every foe. Jesus wins. This lead us to our next point:
Rose Again for Us
The Lord is a mighty One who will save. He was in our midst to secure our salvation, and part of that securing our salvation involves His bodily resurrection.
We celebrate the manger at Christmas. Rightly so, as it reminds us of Christ’s lowly estate. It reminds us of His meekness. But beyond the manger, we look to the cross and beyond the cross, we look to the empty tomb.
The incarnation is important in many areas. But one of the reasons its so vital that God became a man is because it shows us that death is not the end. For those who trust Christ by faith, we too will rise again bodily just like He did. The Lord was certainly with His people in the Old Testament. But the wonder of Christmas is that God was coming to be with His people in a way they could not have imagined. He came to be one of us, to suffer with us, to suffer as us, and He rose again for us. But in all of this, there is even more wonder to consider. The Lord is with us in that He:
Lives in Us
The greatest thing about Christmas is the presence—namely, the presence of Christ. I don’t mean to suggest that Jesus is more present with us at Christmas than normal. What I’m suggesting is that because of Christmas we have the very presence of Christ Himself with us and in us now.
Jesus wasn’t just historically with His people walking among them, living, and dying, and rising again. But to those who close with Christ in faith, He lives in them and communes with them even now. Christians have union with Christ. We are in Him and He is in us. We have a saving relationship with Him.
Through the power of the Gospel, the Holy Spirit gives us new hearts to receive Christ. The Holy Spirit indwells our hearts and unites us to all the saving benefits of Christ’s work which includes union with Christ Himself. What I’m saying to you is if you’re a Christian, the Lord your God is in your midst! This is a wonderful comfort isn’t it? Christ is with us. And beyond that, is not this motivation for secret prayer, Bible reading, holiness, and sharing Christ with others?
We offer Christ to any who will receive Him this Christmas. Jesus will dwell in you too if you will come to Him in saving faith. Forsake sin and self and the world and its treasures. Give them up and come to Christ. He is better.
The Lord is in our midst in that He came to be one of us, to suffer with us, to suffer as us, He rose again for us, He lives in us, and finally, He is:
Returning to Claim Us
Ultimately, we look for the fullness of Zephaniah 3:15–17 in the return of Jesus for His people. The first Advent of Christ reminds us of His second. Jesus is coming again. He’s coming to claim those who are His—those who are blood-bought, set apart, and walking in newness of life. And we will be in the presence of Christ forever. No sin, sorrow, or shame anymore. We will live with Jesus, and He will satisfy every longing.
Christmas reminds us that we serve a God who is with us who loves us and even sings over us in Christ! The Lord your God is in your midst! O worship the King!