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Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Immanuel - and Facebook

The example of God
At this time of the year we remember one of the most wonderful titles of the Lord Jesus Christ - "Immanuel."

"The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel" (Is 7:14)

There is something amazing and profound about this name - God was not willing to stay aloof, stay away, stay apart from the people he created but was determined, out of his great love, to come among us - "God with us", "Immanuel", in the person of Jesus Christ, the son of Mary, the Son of God.

What had God done in the past? He had communicated through prophets and theophanies in visions and writings, but all of these were "inadequate" and "incomplete" communications. God had to come "in person", through his Son who is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being.

How to talk
In our day, when we have many kinds of communication open to us, we need to learn afresh that the best way, the ideal way is not by phone, not by email, not by text, not by Facebook, but face to face. God has set the example of embodied communication.

There are good reasons for this. We use the whole body to communicate. When we are in the same room with someone we say things we wouldn't say if the communication is less direct, we avoid saying things that we might say if the communication was less direct. We read non-verbal signs - which may completely change what we are about to say. 

Facebook et al
And this is where Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp and the rest of social media fails. Any communication that is only via those means will be hampered and stilted and open to misunderstanding. We might think we are communicating when in fact we are not at all.

We see through a glass darkly now, but it is God's will that one day we will see face to face. In the new heavens and earth, God makes it clear that he will be with us. "Now the dwelling of God is with men and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with the, and be their God." (Rev 21:3-4).

Face to face beats all other forms of communication, for it was and will be God's way of communicating with his people. We desperately need a theology of communication in an age of social media, and the incarnation provides us with that. God talks by coming to us in flesh and blood, not on Facebook but God with us, Immanuel.