Here we are again! It’s almost Christmas, and please don’t ask me if I’m ready. I’m never ready! It’s about this time each December that I always realize there’s something (or someone) I forgot! And I just noticed that I ended three of the four preceding sentences with exclamation points! Not good writing! But that’s kinda the state of my brain right now. I need some peace on earth. I need some slow-down-and-enjoy-the-reason-for-the-season time. So I made my cup of coffee and here I am. I encourage you to do the same. Sit down with a cup of coffee (or tea or hot chocolate, but preferably coffee) and just rest. Don’t worry; this won’t take long. I’ll keep it short, and try to limit my exclamation points!
We often hear about the ‘Miracle of Christmas’ this time of year. But what is that? Is it the virgin birth? Of course, that’s a huge part of it. Is it the angelic visitations, the unusual star in the sky, the prophecies fulfilled? It’s all that, for sure. But the most miraculous thing about Christmas was that God left heaven to be with us. I just can’t get over that! Why would a perfect God leave a perfect heaven to come down here to this nasty, mean ol’ world and hang out with us? There’s so much awful, so much sorrow, so much evil. The absolutely only possible answer is that God has so much love for us that He couldn’t help but come near.
As I was thinking about this, I was reminded that this didn’t just happen when Jesus was born. God has always been trying to come near to us. From the beginning, in the Garden of Eden, He was walking and talking with Adam and Eve. When sin destroyed their perfect fellowship, He began His plan to get it back. All through the pages of the Old Testament, we see this God who keeps pursuing us. When Hagar ran from an embittered Sarah and ended up in a desert, God’s angel visited her and told her God heard her. When the Israelites were wandering around in the wilderness for forty years, God instructed them to build the Tabernacle where He could dwell with them. When Jonah was in the big fish (after running from God’s will), God heard his cry and gave him another chance. Read the short book of Hosea if you really want to know how much God wants to be with us!
There are many more examples, but on with the rest of the story. As Matthew explains how Joseph finds out his part in this miraculous event, he ties in Scripture from Isaiah 7:14 to remind us that this has been God’s plan all along.
All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “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 1:22,23
Of course, Mary and Joseph were told to name their miraculous little bundle of joy Jesus, and they did. That was a pretty common name back then. Naming Him ‘Immanuel’ would have sounded a little presumptuous, though completely appropriate. We still call Him Jesus, but those of us who know Him as Savior, also know Him as God with us. And that truly has to be one of my favorite names. I need to be reminded often that God is with me.
This world really is a mess, isn’t it? An awful, mixed-up, chaotic mess. But NOT a God-forsaken mess. He came to be with us in this mess, and He has promised that He’ll never leave us nor forsake us. He may not be here ‘in the flesh,’ but He totally is here with us in the Spirit. Praise His glorious Name, He is, and always will be, God with us.
Check out this beautiful Christmas song that reminds us God is with us!
(And if you’re still drinking that cup of coffee and want a little more Christmas inspiration, check out my Christmas blog posts from last year on the characters of the Christmas story.)