#127 "God With Us"
December 25, 2007
"The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel" -- which means, "God with us." (Matthew 1: 23)
I heard a story about a woman who was doing her last minute Christmas shopping at a crowded mall. She was tired of fighting the crowds. She was tired of standing in lines. She was tired of fighting her way down long aisles looking for a gift that had sold out days before. Her arms were full of bulky packages when the elevator door opened. It was full. The occupants of the elevator grudgingly tightened ranks to allow a small space for her and her load. As the doors closed, she blurted out, "Whoever is responsible for this whole Christmas thing ought to be arrested, strung up, and shot!" A few others nodded their heads or grunted in agreement. Then, from somewhere in the back of the elevator came a single voice that said, "Don't worry. They already crucified him."
How is that for a stark reminder about Who is responsible for the "whole Christmas thing"? Christmas is all about how God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son so that whoever believes in Him might have eternal life. It is all about the One who existed in the very beginning with God and was God. It is about Jesus...the One who became flesh and made His dwelling among us. He took on human flesh and made His home with us. The One who is called Emmanuel...God with us.
God with us...what does that mean? It means that Christ, the eternal God, came to earth as a man. He didn't just appear to be a man...He became one. He put His feet right here on planet Earth as a man. He walked and talked and ate and cried and laughed. He slept and played with children. He spent time with family and enjoyed His time with friends. God with us. Everything that Christmas means is within that name, Emmanuel...God with us. Not just another baby born in the town of Bethlehem that night. Not just another man walking the dusty roads of Galilee. Jesus was never just another man. He was also God, in the flesh. That is so amazing that we can scarcely take it in. Some can't...others won't..
Those who saw Him with their own eyes...might they have noticed that He was what God is like? His eyes...God's eyes. His ways...God's ways. His hands...the hands of Almighty God. His character...God's.
God with us means just that...God with us. Not distant. Not walking around in royal robes, even though He IS King of the universe. Not on some earthly throne. He was WITH us. Became one of us. Experienced what we experience. And He didn't send someone else to do the job...He came Himself.
And He wasn't just God with us in the past tense. God IS with us...Now! Not in some distant external way. God is with you today! Closer than your dearest friend. Closer than your brother or sister. As close as the next beat of your heart and as close as your next breath. God is with us...you and me..intimately.
And He is with us only because of the second half of His story. The part that we seem to overlook at Christmas time. We forget that the baby born in a borrowed stable was later buried in a borrowed tomb. We forget that the baby that was laid in a wooden manger, later was hung and died on a wooden cross at Calvary. We must remember the whole story. Christ lived on this earth, died a horrible death and triumphantly rose from the dead for you and for me. He did this so that we would believe and so that our sins would be forgiven and we would receive a gift more precious than any gift we will receive this Christmas. The gift of eternal life and the gift of Emmanuel, in our hearts. God with us. Right here..right now.
There is so much hurt, so much pain and so much loss in our world today. The Christmas trees and decorations and gifts will not heal any of that hurt or pain or loss. We may be able to gloss over and hide our individual pains and struggles during this season and replace it with presents and an attempt to produce the "perfect" Christmas. But it's only a mask, only a covering up of what our real need is. Our need for a Savior to free us from the bondage of our sins. Our need for a Savior to heal our broken hearts. Our need for Emmanuel...God with us. A God that is with us everyday, not just on December 25th. A God that we acknowledge everyday, not just at Christmas time. A God that came as an indescribable gift, in the person of Jesus Christ, to save us from ourselves and to daily bear our burdens. A child that was born. A Son that was given. One who the prophet Isaiah said would be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father and the Prince of Peace. One who would give us gifts that can never be found in boxes with brightly colored bows on them. Let us not forget Emmanuel this Christmas or any other day for that matter.
The world is a dark place but that same prophet, Isaiah, said that people walking in darkness have seen a great light and on those living in the land of the shadow of death, a light has dawned. That light is Jesus Christ...the Light of the World. And He is God with me and He is God with you today! Find a still and quiet moment this Christmas week and listen for His still, small voice. Go to Calvary and kneel down at the foot of the Cross and it is there that you will find the meaning of the manger. You'll find Christ this Christmas. "God so loved the world, (and that means YOU), that He gave His one and only Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life." Notice that God "gave". He gave the most precious Gift that He had. For you.
By the time you read this, Christmas Day may have passed. I pray that you had an awesome time with your family. I pray that you shared many treasured moments of love and laughter. But most importantly I pray that you will never, ever forget the Ultimate Gift that you have been given. Emmanuel...God with us. God with you. He is Emmanuel everyday, every hour, 24/7...365. You may be facing the same old problems and struggles and situations that you were facing before the holiday. Know that God is with you, right there where you are. He loves you so much. He is so close to you that if you close your eyes, you might even be able to feel His breath on your face. He can't be found in a package or a gift bag. His brightly colored bow was a crown of thorns on His head. From the manger to the cross, He did it all for you. Emmanuel...God with us.
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