Emmanuel, God With Us ...Still

Homemade nativity scene with items made out of gum drops, candy canes, graham crackers, and yellow coconut flakes

Another Christmas has passed, but the celebration is not over. Do you remember this from last week? …The angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and told him not to be afraid.  The Messiah was coming. The long-awaited Savior of the world would soon be with us. Isaiah’s prophecy would soon be fulfilled:

“The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son,
and they will call him Immanuel
(which means ‘God with us’)”
Matthew 1:23 (NIV)

Jesus was born and God was with us.
A Savior came and died,
And He’s alive today.

His name was called Wonderful,
And wonderful He remains.
They called Him Prince of Peace,
And peace He gives today and forever.
He was with God and is God – the Mighty God –
And He heralds His might today.

He was called Counsellor,
Still He gives us counsel today
Through His gift – the Holy Spirit.

He’s the Everlasting Father.

He was named Emmanuel,
“God with us,”
And He is with us this day.

(thoughts from Matthew 1:23, Isaiah 9:6, John 1:1 and 14:16-18)

At Christmas time, it’s easy to remember and celebrate the fact that God is with us. The story of Baby Jesus and the bundle of joy He must have been in Mary’s arms and heart is so special. And the bundle of everlasting joy, peace, and love He grew to be for the world! God was with us.

But when the lights are stowed and the trees lie at curbside,
do we still cherish the hope of Christmas?
Or is the promise of “God with us” also set aside?

Starting a new year, God is still with us.  He never left. We can continue to celebrate His presence.

But sometimes it doesn’t seem like God is with us. We have higher hopes for today even though He was with us yesterday. Where is He in the storms, the loss, the tears, the aftermath that somehow lingers? What does “God with us” mean in the everyday struggle we call life?

Before Jesus was betrayed and hung on a cross, He spent time with His closest disciples.  Emmanuel was going to leave, but not really. Here are some truths (and a couple challenges) about God’s presence we can thank Him for in 2018.

     When Jesus came to earth, He showed us how to live with Him. He helped us understand what it means to have a relationship with God, because He is God. He taught us how to live and what is most important to Him: love, obedience, service, and being a light in this world. Ironically, living with Jesus didn’t make sense to His disciples until He left the earth. (John 14:4-15, 21-24)

     When Jesus left, He went to prepare homes for us in Heaven. But He didn’t really leave us. He gave us a teacher who daily instructs our hearts …if we let Him. God, the Holy Spirit, makes His home in our hearts. He tries to, anyway, amidst the clutter and places we haven’t kept clean. He teaches us, He directs us, He makes sense of our prayers, He gives us a conscience. He does these things when we put our selfishness and pride aside and open up our hearts to meaningful and fulfilling relationships with God. (John 14:1-3, 16-17, 25-26)

     God promises He will never leave us. We might have some broken relationships, but God will never walk away. When we offend Him or disregard Him, He is ever patient with open arms. But we experience God’s presence in an imperfect way. Our togetherness is broken at times. Sometimes we question whether we really want His presence. Sometimes we wonder why He allows tragedy. But God is here. The imperfect part of our relationship comes from us. We want a little more …of something else. We don’t trust His decisions. We envision life a little better …better suited to our nature. But someday, when Jesus returns to take us home, our relationship with Him will be perfect. God sent Jesus so He can be with us, but Jesus is bringing us home so we can be with Him. (John 14:3, 17-19, 28)

     We’re not home yet. But because God is with us, we can enjoy peace. This doesn’t mean peace among nations or even peace among family members. It means safety, rest, and assurance for our hearts, even during troubled times. Sometimes it’s God who brings the hard times, but He follows it up with deliverance. Joseph was troubled about Mary’s pregnancy, but an angel brought him good news. After the visit, Joseph proceeded with confidence because Mary was carrying the Savior and God would soon be with us.  Jesus, the Prince of Peace, told His disciples, “Don’t be troubled. Believe in God, and believe in Me.”  Soon afterwards, He allowed His arrest, torture, and crucifixion – in perfect peace – the kind of peace He gave us. (Isaiah 7-8, Matthew 1:18-25, John 14:1 and 27).

     To truly enjoy “God with us,” we must do our parts. God came. He took the first step. For Christians and non-Christians alike, God awaits our response. He promises to be with us if we walk with Him.

For the Christian, to obey God is to stay with Him. Remember that God accepts those who obey and serve Him, but He rejects those who do not (1 Chronicles 28:8-10). God looks at our deepest thoughts so we need to direct our hearts toward Him (1 Chronicles 29:18).  Here is what Jesus said to His disciples:

…”Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching.
My Father will love them,
and we will come to them and make our home with them.
Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching.
These words you hear are not my own;
they belong to the Father who sent me.”
John 14:23-24

For the non-Christian, what I wrote above doesn’t really come into play. To enjoy direct benefit from “God with us,” you need to accept God’s invitation to be with you. When Jesus came, He took our sins upon Himself and died to pay the debt we personally owe Him. If you believe this, He welcomes you into His open arms and you can enjoy perfect peace and be with God forever.

At the end of John 14, Jesus told His disciples, “Come now, let us leave.” It was time to do the will of His Father. “God with us” should move us to say, “Us with God.” That means we should follow Him and do what He wants us to do. We may not understand everything He wants from us, but we know enough to keep us moving in the right direction. Are we with God in 2018?

God with us
Us with God
At Christmas time
Into the New Year

Find all of my Christmas posts here.

If you want to know more about Jesus and the Christmas story, please email me at authordlv@attnet.com.

Read more blog posts here.

THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.


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