Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall call his name Immanuel”Matthew 1:23
For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.Isaiah 9:6>
During my college years, my mother would have a special joy on weekends when both I and my sister, who was also a student, were both home from college at the same time. Those weekends always included at least two things—worshipping together as a family and eating a sit-down meal together. Starting already a few weeks before the expected time, we would hear about her plans. During the actual weekend, she would always be walking a few inches off the ground and couldn’t stop saying, “It is just SO GOOD to have you both with us, in the flesh!”.
Many of us have also either seen ultrasound pictures of our pre-born children or received ‘waiting child’ pictures during the lengthy adoption process. While those pictures bring hope and expectation, they are no substitute for being ‘with’ our children ‘in the flesh’ once they are born or arrive in our families.
Today, as many of us worship on Christmas Day, we joyfully end Advent’s waiting with expectation and preparing with reverence. We awake today with that special sense of the ‘in the flesh’ burst of joy brought by Emmanuel—God being with us. There is just something incredible and different about our relationship with Jesus because he accepted the opportunity and responsibility of coming in the flesh to be with us—“moving into the neighborhood” as one translation puts it.
There is no greater joy or expression of God’s love for us in Christ Jesus than that ‘God is with us’. Old Testament Israel could only have this sense of being ‘with God’ in the tabernacle and temple—and a few other special individual meetings sprinkled in.
But recall as well—in the Old Testament—only the priests could interact with God directly. Through the person of Jesus, we are all—every one of us—you and me personally—now are welcomed into personal relationship with the God who made everything! In the babe of Bethlehem, God has stooped down to be with us. God with us is the hope for the nations. Emmanuel is the justice-bringer and tear-wiper of the cosmos. And, he is our next door neighbor….he is ‘with us’.
Lord—we joyfully accept Your moving into our lives today as we celebrate Christmas. Thank You for humbling Yourself—as God Almighty—into flesh and blood and becoming “God with us” because you love us so much. May we express that joy and radiate Your light in our lives—today and throughout the year ahead in how we live our lives so that others may experience the life we have through You.