Christmas Meditation: Immanuel

At the beginning of Matthew’s Gospel we read this about the birth of Jesus:

All this took place to fulfil what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us). (1:22-23)

Who is this baby that has been born?  Matthew’s answer: He is God with us.

This is a remarkable statement.  Throughout the Old Testament God makes himself present with his people.  As Israel leave Egypt for the Promised Land God dwells with them – by day he makes his presence visible by a pillar of cloud and by night a pillar of fire.  After the giving of the law on Mount Sinai God’s presence with his people is seen by the Tabernacle (moving tent) and then the Temple where he dwells in the most Holy place.  This is God with his people.

xmas2As we read the opening of the New Testament we soon see that God is with his people in a very different manner.  He has come in the flesh; God very literally is dwelling with his people.  He is born like them, grows up like them, lives like them, eats like them and so on.  God is with his people in the flesh of his son.  This is how Matthew’s Gospel both begins and ends, it begins with naming this baby Immanuel, God with us, and then at the end Immanuel himself says ‘And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age’ (28:20).

Yet, we know that Jesus did not remain with his disciples, and that he is not here today in the flesh.  But what we learn in the book of Acts (and in the Gospel of John) is that God now dwells with his people through his Spirit.  God now dwells in each and every one of his people through his Spirit.

This is not the end though, for one day God will dwell with his people in the new creation.  We will be with our God and he will be with us forever in perfect harmony.

Who is this baby?  He is God with us!

God is with us – as Christians we can be assured of this promise, God is with us, and this truth helps us in all sorts of situations.

In our sorrow and our grief God is with us.  More than that, he knows what it is to suffer, and so is able to sympathise with us as we suffer ourselves.  At Christmas it can be difficult if you are suffering sorrow or grief – Christmas is rightly a celebration and people enjoy this time of year.  But, if you are suffering that can make it worse.  Therefore, know that God is with you in your sorrow and grief.

God is also with us in our temptations.  Christmas brings many temptations – gluttony, materialism, jealousy, anger, drunkenness, bitterness, selfishness.  However, God is with us in them – he has been tempted and tried in every way, just like us, and yet was without sin.  Hence he is able to empathise with those who are struggling, and not only empathise but also help us overcome temptation.

God is always with us!  This is a promise that does not end, he has promised to be with us and that will continue into eternity.  So as we celebrate his first coming, let us remind ourselves that he will come again and when he does, in a very special way he will be with us!

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