Immanuel

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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.” –Matt. 1:22-23

My wife and I have only seriously lost track of our daughter once. We were walking through a crowded tourist town and the streets were lined with shops. It was evening and the crowds were dense. Suddenly, I noticed that neither my wife nor I had our eight-year-old daughter by the hand. We spun around, unable to spot her. With candy stores beckoning children indoors, and winding side streets all around, she could be anywhere.

A few minutes of running around, and somehow I spotted her, a far way down a side street. The look on her face was unforgettable: “Where were you?” she asked, but her eyes said, Thank God, you are with me now. I am never going to leave your side again.

“With us.” There is hardly a more central promise that God has ever made to human beings. The alternative is just too horrifying to imagine. If God has abandoned us, and that is why so many bad things happen in life, then what does that say about God? What does it say about our destiny? If God oscillates in and out of our lives, willing to be with us only as long as we don’t get too obnoxious, coming and going like a father who grows lax in his responsibility—where does that leave us? If God cannot be with us, then we would have to conclude that we will never reap the benefits of divine presence, and that words like grace, mercy, love, and truth have no meaning.

Jesus was born, but he was also sent, and Immanuel was one of his names. Immanu-el: “with us [is] God.” “God with us.” His body among us, his message from the heavens. He turned life upside down with the divine truths he presented. But he also left people with the sense that they had never been closer to God than when they were with him.

We don’t need to stay lost. God is not indifferent to our condition. And he came to us in the most radical way, by taking our flesh, our humanity, on himself.

Prayer for Today:

Dear Lord, I need to know you are with us. Help me, this Christmas, to know, more than I have ever known before, that you have come and that we can always live in the conscious enjoyment of your presence.

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