Immanuel: When God Was One of Us

Although I grew up celebrating Christmas, it was not until recently that my family and I began to observe Advent more in earnest. During the last several years, we began reading through the Messianic prophecies in the Old Testament throughout the month of December. Our church annually held candlelight Christmas Eve services. We bought our own wreath with pink, lavender and white candles. We struggled year to year to find a devotional that seemed right for us.

I was eager to write down my own thoughts around the profound gospel message of Advent and Christmas. While my kids worked on math or grammar at the kitchen table during our home school year, I stole fifteen or twenty minutes here and there, delving into Scripture and the unfathomable idea that God would love us so much that he would become human.

This idea of incarnation from a God who loves us and longs deeply for us seems rich with meaning and significance far beyond the scope of one holiday season. It has been a spiritually rewarding experience to attempt to articulate the implications of God being one of us. In living a small, specific life, Jesus shows us he understands, he loves, he walks alongside us. There is so much comfort and challenge in that!

Immanuel: When God Was One Us is available through Amazon both in paperback and Kindle editions. I pray it may be a help during these times of chaos and stress and distraction.

from the Preface:

Christmas is a favorite time of year for many people, and for many, it is the most stressful or depressing. My desire is that this book may be an encouragement to both. In acknowledging both the joy and anguish of the season, we honor our dependence on God in a genuine way. It is my hope that this daily devotional will help quiet and focus our minds and hearts to celebrate and worship the Savior who came down to be one of us….In whatever way you participate, I pray you experience the truth of his presence, and eagerly await with me his final Advent.

For more information, please go to

www.amazon.com/April-Bumgardner/e/B08GX3Q9N5?ref_=pe_1724030_132998060

Back to school

With the exception of a few of us homeschooling parents who stubbornly persist in a twentieth century school calendar, all of the teachers here in Indiana are back at school welcoming children, teaching multiplication tables, listening to and reading stories, encouraging learning and helping develop character.

Back to school is also back to the business of loving your neighbor as yourself. Whether your neighbor is an elementary school student, middle schooler, high schooler or even a college student, if you are a Christian your focus is to love the one before you as Christ would love them, as, indeed, he loves them.

Beloved children’s author Katherine Paterson, creator of The Bridge to Terabithia and Jacob Have I Loved, after a speaking engagement was once asked by a teacher for a piece of advice he could share with his class. In her speech, “The Child in the Attic” delivered at The Ohio State University Children’s Literature Festival in February 2000, she gives the following response:

“I’m very biblically oriented,” I said, “and so for me the most important thing is for the word to become flesh. I can write stories for children, and in that sense I can offer them words, but you are the word become flesh in your classroom. Society has taught our children that they are nobodies unless their faces appear on television. But by your caring, by your showing them how important each one of them is, you become the word that I would like to share with each of them. You are that word become flesh.”

Twenty years later, the only difference is that children are tempted to see their value not necessarily by way of television, but by YouTube.

I write these few words to teachers, administrators, custodial staff, bus drivers, counselors and cafeteria workers: your light shines. Your smile matters. Your compassion changes hearts and futures. Your influence may be incalculable.

And, really, this is the charge Christ gives to all of us, whether we are a teacher, student, neighbor, friend, employee, manager or stranger on the street. We are the light of the world. We are his ambassadors for a different life possible. We are his love incarnate. We are that word become flesh. We take on Christ both in the insignificant gestures and the grandiose ones, because they all reflect his movements.

To all to whom this may apply,

Welcome back to school.

He made himself nothing

I have been reflecting on what Christ renounced to live here on earth.

 “rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.”

‭‭Philippians‬ ‭2:7‬ ‭NIV‬‬

In his book Knowing Christ Today: Why We Can Trust Spiritual Knowledge, Dallas Willard states that we are to live as Christ would have lived our specific life.

“As Jesus’ disciple… You are learning from Jesus how to lead your life as he would lead your life if he were you. Yes, the very life you have…there isn’t a person on this earth Jesus couldn’t have been. .. he relinquished supreme power. He learned to live  in the kingdom of God as an ordinary human being…He could live in your circumstances now.” P. 54

He could have been any one of us. Instead he was a carpenter’s son, living on the wrong side of the Pax Romana. How would he have lived your life in particular? Perhaps that is part of what he gave up- the ability to live all lives, to be omnipresent and to see humanity from every perspective. Jesus was only able to live the one life here on earth, just as we are limited. We can only see with the single pair of eyes that God created for us. How would Jesus have used my blue eyes in America in the 21st century?

Our prayer might be to catch glimpses of his omniscient vision as Creator and Savior. As C. S. Lewis encourages us,

But in reading great literature I become a thousand men and yet remain myself. Like the night sky in the Greek poem, I see with a myriad eyes, but it is still I who see. Here, as in worship, in love, in moral action, and in knowing, I transcend myself; and am never more myself than when I do.

C.S. Lewis, An Experiment in Criticism

In this way, may he teach us as the all-knowing God of the universe, and may his pattern as a man speak to us of his compassion and wisdom as he also was limited in his humanity.