The View From 1776

God Is Closer Than You Know

A Christmas reminder: Jesus, Immanuel, means God with us.

For Sunday’s sermon topic at the Black Rock-Long Ridge Congregational Church (North Stamford, Connecticut), Pastor Steve Treash chose “God’s Presence is Closer Than You Think.”  Michelangelo symbolized the relationship in his famous Sistene Chapel ceiling painting of God stretching down from heaven to touch Adam and bring life to humanity.

Christmas calls us again to thank God for the miracle of His Advent through the birth of Jesus Christ, bringing Grace and the Holy Spirit to all of humanity who choose to hear and accept the Gospel.

God literally is everywhere in everything, but the world is not God. 

God is existence preceding essence.  The entirety of the universe - past present, and future - existed beforehand in the Mind of God.  He imparted the qualities of the universe to it at the moment of creation. 

If you prefer scientific terminology, God IS prior to the Big Bang.  At the instant of the universe’s creation, God imposed an intelligent design upon it, from which come the laws of physics, chemistry, and quantum mechanics.  The laws of science, in Biblical terms, are the Word of God.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.  Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.  And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.  (Genesis 1:1-3)

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  (John 1:1)

Despite our lowly state as His sinful creatures, God, through Jesus Christ, has given us direct, close access to Him.  He endowed us with immortal souls that can be opened to the transcendent illumination of His truth, if we choose to follow his commandments to worship only Him and to treat our fellows with the same love that He shows us and the same love that we want from others.

The closeness of God to His creatures is described in Genesis 3:8:

Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden.

I will praise the LORD, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me.  I have set the LORD always before me.  Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.  (Psalms 16:7-8)

As Don Osgood, one of our interim ministers, used to say, “See God in everything.”  God is close to us if we quiet our souls in prayer and listen for His inspiration.  But He often manifests His presence in unexpected ways.

But after [Joseph] had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.  She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.  (Matthew 1:20-21)

Jesus Christ came into the world as superficially an ordinary human being.  In the perception of the world around Him, Jesus’s birth was an ordinary event in everyday surroundings.  Yet God revealed to shepherds in the fields and to the Magi its extraordinary character.

Especially at Christmas time we should quiet ourselves and withdraw from the hustle and bustle of the commercial world, recognizing that God’s presence is closer than we think and that we have but to listen for His direction in our lives.

After Jesus’s resurrection:

Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go.  When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.  Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”  (Matthew 28: 16-20).