Immanuel, God with Us! Can it Really Be True?

Wednesday before Christmas

Christmas Nativity 2Immanuel, God with us. (Matthew 1:23)

God is with us.

The creator of all that is seen and unseen is with us.

God, YHWH, took on human flesh and walked among us. He was covered with the downy flesh of a baby and placed in the rude bed of an animal’s feeding trough.

Is it not overwhelming to contemplate that our God has worn a body? He knows our frame (Psalm 103:14). He knows the heartache of loss, the panting need of thirst, the pangs of hunger that an empty stomach send out. I have little doubt that he experienced the illnesses that his mother Mary’s genetic makeup passed on to the human nature that he assumed in her womb. [Did the Savior ever have the common cold? I think, probably, yes.]

And yet, the Scripture declares, “we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15)

Christ lived a sinless life. He satisfied all of the positive requirements of the Law. He perfectly kept every command–with a body, with flesh like ours. It is stunning to contemplate. And it is the only way that he could have been the perfect, spotless, atoning-lamb of sacrifice for sin. His blood, his death was the substitute that we needed so that God could be both “just and justifier” (Romans 3:16) of those who place their faith in Christ.

This is what Christmas is all about. Not the gifts we give but the gift he gave. Not the things we receive from one another but the gift he wants to give to all who will receive him. Jesus came, he became a child born in an animal stall so he could grow up and be our kinsman redeemer and lay his life down on the cross to pay for our sin.

In August two years ago, a young man who came to believe in Christ during my years at New Song Church, lost his battle with alcohol. Sixteen years ago [now 18 years], he gave his heart to Jesus, the Jesus who came to save. His growth in grace was episodic at best. Months of sobriety followed by months of stupor. Months of learning and growth punctuated by months of backward movement. Miracles surrounded him at many turns. Three times, he lived with us when he was homeless. There was the time he walked into a bar, determined to get drunk, only to come out ten minutes later without a drink and with three people rescued from the bar two of whom came to church the next Sunday. His hope was renewed.

In April and May and June, and July, there was a new freshness to his faith. He wrote me emails that spoke of a new preciousness of the gospel to him. He made an insightful comment on one of the posts here on the BLOG. A great man he met at New Song never gave up on him and was investing in his life. I remember the day I challenged the two of them to work together.  It started rocky and got rockier, but his new discipler hung in, kept making contact, kept speaking truth to him, kept praying for him, kept loving him. (Thanks BT, you made a life changing difference in his life.)

But on a Sunday morning in August, my 16 year friendship ended when alcohol, and new medication, mixed with the great heat of the summer ended his life.  A grieving mother and three sisters wept and remembered the brother and son they loved and in the end there was only one comfort–the Savior has worn a body.

And he knows their sorrow and he died to atone for sin and rose again so that death could be swallowed up in the victory of the resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:53-57).

In the midst of all your gifts, and all the food you have consumed and will consume, and all the games and parties and celebrations of this season, don’t forget that Christmas is all about Easter and what Jesus accomplished and that it really is true. God is with us, Immanuel has come.  Let the glad tidings of this season be on your lips all year long.

reworked and revised post

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