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God with us

God with us

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

God with us

Dec. 4, 2007    News media contact:  Tita Parham*    
800-282-8011     Orlando {0769}

NOTE: A headshot of Whitaker is available at

An e-Review Commentary
By Bishop Timothy W. Whitaker**

Christmas is the festival celebrated by the church to commemorate the birth of Jesus — the birth that changed the world.

The history of our civilization would be completely different if Jesus had never lived. His life has always been the inspiration of one movement after another that has had deep cultural and political impact.

Yet, the primary reason Jesus’ birth is unforgettable is because Jesus’ life discloses a mystery. It is a mystery that is sensed without ever being fully comprehended. The best attempt to articulate this mystery was made by the Gospel of Matthew, which states that the one to be born in Bethlehem will be known as Emmanuel, which means “God is with us (Matthew 1:22-23).”

To believe in Jesus Christ, who was God with us, is to live with the faith that God is with us now.

It is not easy to keep this faith in our modern Western world. We assume the last thing we need is God. After all, our scientists can explain everything to us — without, of course, being able to explain why the reality external to us is intelligible to us. Our entrepreneurs can deliver the goods that make us happy — without really making us satisfied whenever reality punctures our bubble of consumption. Our politicians can give us the glorified state as something to live and die for — as long as there is no one to remind us of the truth that the state is not transcendent and eternal.

Yet, the amazing thing is, despite the existence of gigantic systems that seem designed to deny our need for God, people still yearn to believe. Indeed, we experience the gift of being able to believe whenever the God who was revealed in Jesus Christ is proclaimed to us. Then we know that the living God is with us.

The living God is not a god of the gaps who is involved to explain some phenomenon for which there is not yet any satisfactory human explanation. God is the boundless mystery from which everything that is comes and who is present in, with and through all things, while not being exhausted in anything. We sense God’s presence with us every day. Nor is the living God a spiritual prop on which we lean as a kind of insurance to provide ultimate support for our consumerist lifestyle.

No, God’s presence is the center of being, which displaces everything else we try to put at our center. In God’s presence, we learn to value things differently from what we learn from our culture. Also, the living God is not deaf and dumb like the idols of the state, but God is the One who speaks and calls us to a new future of overcoming war and greed. Through God’s Word, we refuse to follow the lies that keep us from building a just and peaceable world.

There has probably never been a society more successful in distracting us from our need of God than ours. Yet, Christmas is a reminder that it won’t work. When we believe the good news of Jesus Christ that God is with us, the spell of the delusions of our world is shattered, and we are free to know and obey the Lord, the giver of life, who is our hope of righteousness, justice and peace.


This article relates to Advent.

*Parham is managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**Whitaker is bishop of the Florida Conference.