Mount Olympus is the highest mountain in Greece and was thought to be the home of gods. The twelve Olympians, with Zeus at their head, made their dwelling atop this great mountain…high above the average man, often above the clouds, far away from the grinding lives of mortals.
In this, the Greeks are no different from the rest of us. If we’re honest, we’d all probably agree that there should be some separation between us mortals and our god(s). The problem with Greek mythology is that the gods were too much like us; they shared our same moral failings.
And so, we place them on Olympus, or heaven, or Elysium. Just so long as there is the necessary distance of separation. But Christmas changes things.
Hundreds of years before the birth of Christ, the Hebrew prophet Isaiah foretold, “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, NIV).” Immanuel. The name means “God with us.” With as in close, nearby, alongside.
The concept of nearness wasn’t new to the Jews. God had told Moses a thousand years before that, “Then have them [the Jews] make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell among them (Exodus 25:8, NIV).” God had chosen nearness over separation.
In fact, this closeness began way back in the Garden of Eden. We’re told that Adam and Eve walked with God in the cool of the day. When they sinned and God was looking for them, the man and the woman hid themselves.
So, it appears that any separation from God we now experience is not of his choosing, it is our choice. God has repeatedly chosen to draw near to us and we have repeatedly chosen to pull away. Then came Immanuel, God with us.
“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1:14, NIV).”
That is the message of Christmas. We continue to separate ourselves from God. Sometimes because we don’t believe the divine should be involved in our petty mortal world. Sometimes, in our sin, we try to hide from him. But he continually pursues us. He finds us. And he tells us, “I am the God that is with you.”
Jim Mann, Ph.D. pastors New Life Church at Robson Ranch. This interdenominational church meets at the Robson Clubhouse on Sunday mornings at 8:30 a.m. Join us in December for our sermon series Cradle, Cross and Crown. Visit New Life’s website www.NewLifeDenton.org for more information.