Jeremiah 31:31-33
Luke 1:26-38
Galatians 4:4-7

An online dating service interviewed 3,000 of its members to find out what the most annoying clichés are that people put in their profiles. The winners were, Biggest Clichés Women Use in Profiles: “No liars or game players!” “This isn’t enough space to sum up my life” followed by a long summation. Biggest Clichés Men Use in Profiles: “I really know how to treat a lady.” “I enjoy long moonlit walks on the beach.”

Would you believe that there are online dating services for about every taste? If you are drawn to farmers, check out Their motto is: ‘city folk just don’t get it.’ If you’d rather go where no one has gone before, try with a motto of : ‘love long and prosper.’ And for those who are into mixing dating with marijuana, their motto is: ‘why toke alone’ 1

If you are one of those 50 million who have dabbled you have discovered that there is a 3 step process involved in hooking up. The first step is to connect in a chat room, exchanging written messages. Perhaps we could refer to these messages as ‘hard copy.’

Couples who discover hard copy compatibility move on to the next step: voice. Yes, they actually speak to one another on a phone. If this goes well, the potential couple sets up an actual meeting in person; in real space instead of cyberspace . . . an actual face to face encounter.

A three-fold process: hard copy, voice, face to face.

It’s not unlike the three-fold process God used in His attempt to hook up with us.

Think about it. When the Lord was looking for a way to say, “I love you,” to the world He first chose to go hard copy, then voice, then face to face.

First, He employs hard copy written on two tablets of stone. That’s right, the ten-commandments; major hard copy! He gave His law to His people, Israel, not because He wants to be a controlling tyrant but because He loves them and knows if they live their lives in accordance with His will they will be blessed. Unfortunately, His people preferred to live their lives on their own terms rather than in obedience to the One who was trying to bless them.

But God still passionately loved them and so in His pursuit of His people He went to step two in the process: voice. God speaks in a clear voice, a powerful voice, a prophetic voice. Micah, “What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God?” (6:8) Isaiah, “Behold, a virgin will conceive a child and they shall call His name Emmanuel, which means God is with us” (7:14)). And Jeremiah, who proclaims a new covenant one in which the law of God would be written on human hearts and there will be forgiveness of sins (31:33).

And how do God’s children react to these hope-filled voices? They ignore them, berate them, beat them and kill them. In the words of Jesus, the so-called holy city of Jerusalem gains a reputation as “the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it!”

Finally God pulls out all the stops in His relentless pursuit of you and I a face-to-face encounter; announced by angels, accepted by Mary and Joseph. “Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets,” we’re told in the letter to the Hebrews, “but in these last days He has spoken to us through His Son” (1:1-2).

In techno-speak, God goes from hard-copy commandments to the voice of prophecy and finally to a face to face encounter that we celebrate at Christmas and call the Incarnation. God taking on human flesh.

The proof of God’s amazing love is that He came to us face to face.

According to Luke, He was born into our world at a particular time; “In the sixth month,” in a particular place; “a town called Bethlehem,” to particular mother, a girl named Mary, “a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David,” with a particular name: Jesus, “the Son of the Most High,” with a most spectacular mission: “He will save His people from their sins.”

What a wonderful love! God went the ultimate distance; He came all the way from heaven to earth. After all the rejection He received over the centuries of Old Testament history He could have walked away, but He did not. He was unyielding in His pursuit of you and I. We are talking about the love of God that will not let us go.

Billy Graham used to tell the story of walking near his home in the beautiful hills of North Carolina when he looked down and saw an anthill that had been crushed by a cow. He saw that the carefully planned home was ruined and that several ants had apparently died. As he watched others writhing in agony and confusion he wished for a moment that he were an ant. He wanted to be one of them so he could explain that he wanted to help them and tell them that he was sorry for the upheaval in their world. But he had no way of communicating with them, so he went on his way. 2

But when God looked down and saw the world devastated by sin’s consequences, when he saw people insisting on living apart from Him and making shipwreck of their lives, He did not pass on by!

God came to earth and met the people living in the first century face to face.

Don’t you wish that you could have been there to see Him face to face?

But we weren’t. Someday yes, on some future glorious day John reminds us in his first letter we will see Him face to face. (I John 3:2)

But for now, for us to meet Him requires faith. And that’s where the rub comes for many of us sophisticated adults. Faith in these things doesn’t come easy for many. As we grow older, we experience more and more disappointments with people; we encounter more and more episodes of broken trust and as a result we become somewhat skeptical, untrusting.

When Jesus was hoping to instill faith into a group of religiously thick-headed adults, He called a small child into their midst and said, “I assure you that unless you turn from sin and have faith as little children, you will never, no never enter the Kingdom of Heaven” (Matthew 18:3).

Why; because kids just believe. They speak about Jesus as if they’ve had a face to face encounter with Him: “I saw Jesus yesterday; He played with me in the sandbox.”

A little boy growing up in a Catholic home wanted a bicycle very badly for Christmas. So on Christmas Eve he wrote a prayer before he went to bed “Mary, mother of God, could you see that I get a bicycle?” he placed the prayer next to a statue of the blessed virgin and went to sleep. Christmas morning came and he was disappointed that he didn’t get the bike. But this kid was full of faith so that night before he went to bed, he wrapped his statue of Mary in a blanket, placed her in a dresser drawer along with a note that said, “Jesus, if you ever want to see your mother again, I better get that bike.” 3

But pay a few bills, mow the lawn a few times and rigor mortis begins to set in; spiritually speaking.

Child-like faith in Jesus; in who He was and what He did: “In the fullness of time, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under law; in order to redeem those under the curse of the Law” (Galatians 4:4).

Simple child-like faith opens the door to seeing Jesus face to face.

And we come face to face with Jesus in the pages of the scriptures.

We can join the people living in the first century who were with Jesus in the synagogue at Nazareth at His coming out party where He claimed for Himself the words of the prophet Isaiah:

The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because He has anointed Me to proclaim good news to the poor, freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18-19).

And then to actually see His words come to fruition. Matthew describes it like this:

Jesus traveled throughout the region of Galilee, teaching in the synagogues and announcing the Good News about the Kingdom. And he healed every kind of disease and illness. News about him spread as far as Syria, and people soon began bringing to him all who were sick. And whatever their sickness or disease, or if they were demon possessed or epileptic or paralyzed—he healed them all. Large crowds followed him wherever he went—people from Galilee, the Ten Towns, Jerusalem, from all over Judea, and from east of the Jordan River (Matthew 4:23-25).

And a little later in his gospel Matthew records:

Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness. When He saw the crowds, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were dispirited and distressed, like sheep without a shepherd” (9:35-36).

Can you imagine what it must have been like to see Jesus face to face?

When the Bible scholar N.T. Wright was asked what he would tell his children on his deathbed he said, “Look in the face of Jesus.” Then he explained, “If you want to know who God is, look at Jesus. If you want to know what it means to be human, look at Jesus. If you want to know what love is, look at Jesus. And go on looking until you’re not just a spectator, but part of the drama that has Him as the central character. 4

Until we do actually see Jesus face to face, we have the awesome privilege of seeing Him in action in the preserved gospels.

And we can come face to face with Jesus in prayer.

A man’s daughter had asked the local pastor to come and pray with her father. When he arrived, he found the man lying in bed and an empty chair next to him. Nodding at the chair, the pastor said, “I guess you were expecting me.”

The bedridden man said, “Would you mind closing the door? I’ve never told anyone this, not even my daughter,” said the man. All of my life I have never known how to pray. Until one day about four years ago my best friend said to me, ‘Joe, prayer is just a simple matter of having a conversation with Jesus. I suggest you sit down on a chair; place an empty chair in front of you, and in faith see Jesus on the chair. It’s not spooky because he promised, ‘I’ll be with you always.’ Then speak to him and listen the same way you’re doing with me right now.

So, I tried it and it has meant so much to me that I pray a couple hours every day. I’m careful, though; if my daughter saw me talking to an empty chair, she’d either have a nervous breakdown or send me off to the funny farm.”

The pastor was deeply moved by the story and prayed with him before he left. Two nights later the daughter called to tell the pastor that her daddy had died.
“Did he seem to die in peace?” he asked.
“Yes, when I left the house around two o’clock, he called me over to his bedside, told me one of his corny jokes, and kissed me on the cheek. When I got back from the store an hour later, I found him dead. But there was something kind of strange, apparently, just before Daddy died, he leaned over and rested his head on a chair beside the bed.” 5

This month’s Reader’s Digest All in a Day’s Work: I’m a nurse in a hospital children’s ward. One night I was at the nurse’s station when I heard a little boy in his room talking.
He kept the patter up for some time. Finally, I got on the intercom and said softly but firmly, “All right Johnny, it’s time to go to sleep now.” There was quiet in the room for a few seconds and then I heard him say, “Okay God, I will.” 6

The little boy was face to face.

Finally, we come face to face with Jesus as we receive the sacrament of Holy Communion which reminds us supremely of His grace.

The true meaning of Christmas can only be found in Christ and His love for us. If our search for the Divine doesn’t lead us to Christ, then our search will be in vain. Jesus declared very plainly, “I am the way and the truth and the life, and no one comes into a relationship with the Father except through Me.”

In spite of his best efforts, surgeon Richard Selzer had to cut a nerve in a young woman’s cheek in order to get at a tumor. The result was that her mouth was permanently misshapen. Dr. Selzer was uncertain as to how her husband would respond to the change. Therefore, he was encouraged when the young man came in and was warm and caring to his wife, even joking about her new cute look. But when he saw what happened next, Dr. Selzer’s encouragement turned to awe. The young husband bent down towards his wife, face to face twisted his lips to fit her crooked mouth, and gently kissed her.

Christmas is all about the Incarnation; “Although Jesus existed in the form of God, Hew did not count equality with God as something to be grasped but divested Himself of His heavenly nature and being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself to the point of death even death on a cross” (Phil 2:5-7). In so doing, God bent down, met us face to face, twisted His lips and kissed the twisted lips of a world misshapen by sin with His love and grace. 7

How shall we then respond?

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4 Marlin Whatling, The Marriage of Heaven and Earth(CreateSpace, 2016), page 129


6 Reader’s Digest December 2018, page

7 Steve Nordbye, Charlton, Massachusetts; source: David McCullough, Trivialization of God (Nav Press, 1995), pages 47-48