Remember being a kid at Christmastime? Every year, we eagerly made out our wish lists, including that one thing we wanted more than anything else. We made sure everyone knew it, too—our parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles, brothers and sisters, cousins and friends. Then to cover all the bases, we appealed to Santa Clause!
Is it surprising to know there was a “one special thing” on God’s list that first Christmas night? And that, like a child pursuing Christmas dreams, He announced it relentlessly throughout the Old Testament to whomever would listen? Do you know what it was, that deep desire that consumed our God? He left plenty of hints!
It began with a promise to Abraham. “I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants … to be your God and the God of your descendants after you.”1
It was in His heart when God called Moses to confront Pharaoh and lead Israel out of Egyptian captivity: “I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God.”2
Then revealing Himself and His ways to a post-exodus Israel, God’s deep desire was clear: “If you follow my decrees and are careful to obey my commands … I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be my people.”3
Though deeply grieved over a rebellious Israel in exile, God’s passion never changed as He waited for a remnant to return: “I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the Lord. They will be my people, and I will be their God, for they will return to me with all their heart.”4
And when foretelling of a new covenant—of a Messiah’s leadership and a good shepherd’s protection—God’s eternal purpose remained unbending: “The time is coming when I will make a new covenant.… I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God and they will be my people.”5
In a real sense, God has always been “Immanuel,” God with us; He has always been with His people and He has always claimed them as His own. But God yearns for all people to be reconciled to Himself for all time and to be unimaginably close to us—not only with us, but also in us.
So it was that first Christmas night that God came into the world. He came to us as a gift—He, himself, living among us, full of grace and truth. Our God.
And what can we give him in exchange? Our trust and our obedience. Ourselves. His people.
“Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace to men on
whom his favor rests.” (Luke 2:14)
1 Genesis 17:7 – circa 2067 B.C.
2 Exodus 6:7 – circa 1446 B.C.
3 Leviticus 26:3, 12 – circa 1445 B.C.
4 Jeremiah 24:7 – circa 597 B.C. to 593 B.C.
5 Jeremiah 31:31, 33 circa 587 B.C.