“Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.” Isaiah 7:14
“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14
I have a confession to make: It is exactly 6 days before Christmas and I have not put up my tree nor have I bought one single gift. I am not a Grinch by any means. I love Christmas. I love all the sights, sounds, and smells of Christmas. I love shopping for others and surprising them. I love all the merry-making with family and friends. I love the carols (and a little Luther Vandross “Misteltoe Jam”). I love Christmas cookies and cakes. I love all the “ho-ho-ho” of Christmas.
But as much as I love the Christmas season, it can be bit unnerving. Making a list and check it twice, jingling all the way as I bring good cheer to all, navigating through crazed and determined shoppers and traffic jams at the malls overwhelms me. I have to step back, take a deep breath (or a very long nap) to regroup from it all. Then I remind myself that it’s OK if I don’t get the cake baked or the tree up, if I inadvertently miss a name on the list, or if I don’t mail out cards (does anyone still do that?), or if I don’t make it to every celebration.
I’ve learned to rest in one reality of Christmas, echoed in this simple worship chorus:
He’s name is called Emmanuel,
God with Us, Revealed in Us.
His name is called Emmanuel.
Emmanuel, God with Us! The Word who was from the beginning, the Word who was face to face with God, the Word who is God, clothed Himself in humanity to dwell among us as one of us. And this One, the Apostle John tells us, sent from the Father was full of grace and truth! The Creator became one of His creation. He came to say through His life, “This is who God really is! This is what God is really like! When you see Me, you have seen the Father! Whatever you hear Me say, whatever you see Me do is a physical manifestation and demonstration of God’s unconditional Love for you. My life is Love in action.”
Emmanuel says to me –says to all of us — that God is not far off and distant. He is approachable. He is accessible. He is near me. He is with me! He is in me. He is Emmanuel.
Emmanuel assures me that God is not indifferent to me. He is full of compassion. He cares about every detail of my life. He knows the number of hairs on my head. He knows what I need before I even ask. He knows me inside and out, knows me intimately. He even enjoys my company. He not only loves me, He actually likes me.
Emmanuel reminds me that poverty, sickness and disease, and death are not in Him, and by the power of the cross do not belong to me. God with Us provides my need, heals my body and my mind, breathes life into me.
God with Us is not out to get me at every infraction of the rules. Emmanuel saves, forgives, restores by His finished work. He fulfilled every aspect of the law because I could not fulfill it. Emmanuel reminds me that it is all by His grace, not my good works. God with Us loves me back into right relationship with Him. God with Us doesn’t expect me to be perfect; He perfects me.
Emmanuel does not leave me here to figure things out on my own, and hope that I get it right. God with Us provides direction and guidance, wisdom and grace through His Spirit in me. His Spirit is my Teacher, my Helper, who brings all things to my remembrance. Emmanuel does all of life with me.
Emmanuel does not cause chaos or disorder, but brings peace because He is the Prince of Peace. He has given me peace with God and the peace of God, a peace that passes all understanding. He brings rest, refuge, restoration, reconciliation.
God with Us does not leave me – or any of us — as we were when we received Him. He transforms us, restores His image and likeness within us, so we can live the abundant life, a life of fulfillment as He intended from the very beginning.
And Emmanuel reminds us what this season really represents! Friend, don’t allow the frenzy of the season to settle in you. Emmanuel! If you need refreshing, peace, joy, grace and love now, Emmanuel. Whisper His Name and rest in the blessed assurance that He is with you, doing life with you. He is in you, transforming you. He is for you, causing you to triumph.
I did finally hang a wreath on the door. But wreath or no wreath, tree or no tree, Emmanuel…today, tomorrow and forever!!