“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).
Not much has changed for me over the years. I’ve always been the type of person who enjoys having friends, family, and people around me. Sure, I may have the “advantage” of being an extrovert to handle all of this, but a life of solitude has never been appealing to me. I crave presence. Whether it’s my wife, daughter, a close friend, or just an acquaintance, having flesh and blood folks around gives me a certain kind of joy as well as a reminder of the promise that God will “never leave or forsake me” (Heb. 13:5). I’m hoping this resonates with you, even if you’re an introvert, and the lack of alone time during Christmas time can be concerning (ask my wife!) But if 2020 has shown us one thing, it’s that we want to get close.
Reflect with me for a moment on the above passage from Matthew. Think about the name of Jesus–Immanuel–and the kind of hope His name promises to us from this prophecy in the Book of Isaiah. It’s astoundingly warm and inviting, isn’t it? Of all the things that could be said about Jesus, keeping in mind that the apostle John tells us that “the world itself could not contain the books that would be written” (John 21:25), the one thing in particular that Matthew mentions about the name of Jesus is that it’s a name indicating His closeness to us. Given the endless adjectives that could’ve been used to describe Jesus, this is significant. This is not just “almighty God from heaven,” “second person of the Trinity,” or “Creator of the universe” Jesus, but “the God who is with us.” Those other ways scripture describes Jesus are graciously true, and they need to become ingrained in our hearts so that we have the fullest picture possible of the person and work of Jesus. But every year, when Christmas comes around like clockwork, the name of Jesus we seem to be reminded of the most is that He’s called Immanuel, which means “God with us.”
God, in His steadfast love, new morning mercies, and grace upon grace, didn’t “only” send us a powerful King to be ruler over our lives. He didn’t “only” send a Savior to atone for our sins. He didn’t “only” send us a Son who made peace before packing his bags and returning to his heavenly abode to kick up his feet for all eternity. God sent us a person with a name who committed himself to his followers to the degree that he said “behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).
Today, as we’ve reached the pinnacle of this impossibly busy Christmas season, where you’ve barely had time to exhale, breathe out slowly. Go ahead, do it again. Close your eyes. Remember that Jesus used the word “always” to describe just how long He plans to be with you. How might this be a balm to your exhausted soul as you think ahead to the innumerable challenges that lay before you in the new year?
In all your shaky finances, He is with you.
In all your fragile relationships, He is with you.
In all your inability to repair the broken world around you, He is with you.
The old song is true, “The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.”
So whatever noise is raging around you both internally and externally, remember who is really surrounding and covering you in all the chaos: a bright light in all the bluster, and a bright hope in all the havoc.
You don’t only have a god, you have Immanuel, the God who is with you.
So Merry Christmas, if there ever was one. And there is.