Isaiah 7:14 “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.”
In Hebrew, the name Immanuel means “God with us.” It fits Jesus perfectly. In one sense, “God with us” was nothing new. At creation he spent time with Adam and Eve in the evening. He appeared to Noah, Abraham and the patriarchs, Moses, and took an interest in their lives. He delivered them from trouble at appropriate times. He traveled with his people Israel in the pillar of cloud and the pillar of fire on their way through the desert to the promised land.
Yet, if this was all we knew of his being with his people, we might get the idea he remained a little distant. He kept himself above it all. He was interested in the lives of his people. He cared for them. But the things that happened in their lives didn’t affect him directly, or so we might think.
But then we look at this birth. In Jesus we see just how intimately God is with us. In Jesus, God himself was on earth, living like we live, experiencing what we experience, suffering what we suffer. Do you know that for every temptation which we have faced, Jesus can say, “I’ve been there before. I know what you are going through, and I can help you”? For every grief, every heartache we experience Jesus can say with all honesty, “I know just how you feel. I felt that way once, too. You can lean on me to get you through it.”
It’s not just that Jesus was with us when he walked the streets of Jerusalem, Nazareth, and Capernaum. Some of his last words before he ascended into heaven were, “Surely I am with you always.” By his Spirit, and by faith, he even lives in us. He makes our own hearts his earthly home. How could he be any closer than that: living inside of us in every situation, every moment of every day?
That is a comfort. Isn’t that the kind of God you want–one who is not just there for you, but there with you no matter what you have to face? For those who have come to know who Jesus is and where he comes from–the Son of God from heaven, born of the virgin Mary–this is what Christmas celebrates. There is no need for us to “save” Christmas, as so many holiday specials suggest. Through Christmas, God is saving us. This faith, this confidence, gives us comfort, as God comes to live with us and sets in motion the events by which he redeems us from sin.
December offers much to celebrate: gifts, families, bonuses, and the beauty of the season. My family adds a half dozen birthdays. These are all blessings to enjoy, but none so worthy of our attention or celebration as God coming to live with his people—as one of them.