Hallelujah: The LORD is Near

Emmanuel_1024x1024“Therefore, the Lord Himself will give you a sign: See, the virgin will conceive, have a son, and name Him Emmanuel.” Isaiah 7:14

“Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet:
The virgin will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and they will name Him Emmanuel, which is translated ‘God is with us.’” Matthew 1:22

I’m thankful for the opportunities I have as a follower of Christ (in America) to freely worship with other believers on the special days in which we focus on a specific aspect of the incarnation. What a grace to live where I can celebrate my faith without fear of punishment or imprisonment. This next Sunday (as we do every other Sunday), I will gather with hundreds of other believers, and we will pray and sing together, reminding ourselves of what Jesus spoke to John: “Don’t be afraid. I am the First and the Last, and the Living One. I was dead, but look ​— ​I am alive forever and ever, and I hold the keys of death and Hades!” 

In spite of the fact that every Sunday is a reminder to believers of this glorious thought, Easter is a time we set aside to spotlight The Resurrection. I always look forward to this season of commemoration. However, recent bible studies have compelled me to fully embrace all that this historical event means for me. Christ followers must never fail to remember that the pre-existent Christ – the divine Son – left the glories of Heaven, humbled Himself and took on human form to pay the price for our redemption.
The One who created the universe with a word, and held it in His hand, temporarily released His grasp on omnipotence, and was born into humanity, taking on flesh and blood.  Paul said that He did this so that we “might seek God, and perhaps might reach out and find Him … though He is not far from each one of us. For it is in Him we live and move and have our being.”

He is not far; He is near.
He is WITH.

Why is The Resurrection so incredibly glorious? Because Christ being raised and Christ being near are connected. In Paul’s gospel proclamation, he reminded the believers in Ephesus (and is also reminding us) that “now in Christ Jesus, we who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” This week as I dug deep into Philippians 4, I was struck by the necessity of a daily awareness regarding the nearness of Christ. We rejoice in the midst of trials, we resolve conflicts within the family of God, and we personally put away worry and doubt because He.Is.Near.
It is because of His nearness that we live in hope of a glorious future.

As I reflect on the resurrection this week, I’m especially remembering Paul’s encouraging words to the believers in Philippi: And the God of peace will be WITH you. We don’t just get peace because of Christ’s condescension. We get the God of peace Himself!
Words to a hymn by A. Katherine Hankey (1834-1911) say it perfectly:

Advent tells us, Christ is near;
Christmas tells us Christ is here!
In Epiphany, we trace
all the glory of His grace.
The three Sundays before Lent
will prepare us to repent;
that in Lent we may begin
earnestly to mourn for sin.
Holy Week and Easter, then,
tell who died and rose again;
O that happy Easter day!
“Christ is risen indeed,” we say.

We sing of His victory over death and of His presence in our lives when we proclaim:
For in the hour of our darkest day, we will not tremble, we won’t be afraid.
Hope is rising like the light of dawn; our God is for us He has overcome.
For we trust in our God, and through His unfailing love, we will not be shaken!

“The angel told the women, ‘Don’t be afraid, because I know you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here. For He has risen, just as He said…
When they saw Him, they worshiped, but some doubted.
Jesus came near and said to them … ‘Remember I am with you always, to the end of the age.‘” Matthew 28

“When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory!”
Colossians 3

Christ the Lord is ris’n today, Alleluia!
Sons of men and angels say, Alleluia!
Raise your joys and triumphs high, Alleluia!
Sing, ye heav’ns, and earth, reply, Alleluia!

Lives again our glorious King, Alleluia!
Where, O death, is now thy sting? Alleluia!
Once He died our souls to save, Alleluia!
Where thy victory, O grave? Alleluia!

Love’s redeeming work is done, Alleluia!
Fought the fight, the battle won, Alleluia!
Death in vain forbids His rise, Alleluia!
Christ hath opened paradise, Alleluia!

Soar we now where Christ hath led, Alleluia!
Foll’wing our exalted Head, Alleluia!
Made like Him, like Him we rise, Alleluia!
Ours the cross, the grave, the skies, Alleluia!

Hail the Lord of earth and heaven, Alleluia!
Praise to Thee by both be given, Alleluia!
Thee we greet triumphant now, Alleluia!
Hail the Resurrection, thou, Alleluia!

King of glory, Soul of bliss, Alleluia!
Everlasting life is this, Alleluia!
Thee to know, Thy pow’r to prove, Alleluia!
Thus to sing, and thus to love, Alleluia!

Rejoice, rejoice!
Emmanuel has ransomed captive Israel!

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