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December 1, 2008

“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel (which means ‘God with us’).”        
Matthew 1:23

Perhaps, we want to believe that Jesus has come because our needs are so great, our desire is so deep.  Yet, His coming is hard to process - even to see applied in the reality of our lives.  It almost seems arrogant - to actually believe that the Holy Almighty Creating God should come and dwell with His creation - us. 

It is amazing to contemplate that God Himself is so in love with His creation, creatures who reject Him and who live in sinful disobedience of His will, that God Himself has come to be with us.  Even to call us into a relationship with Him.

Yet this amazing reality is revealed to us in the name “Immanuel” meaning “God with us.”

One of the early defenders and explainers of our faith, Anthanasius, once said, “Our Lord took a body like ours and lived as a man in order that those who had refused to recognize Him in His superintendence and captaincy of the whole universe might come to recognize from the works He did here below in the body, that what dwelt in this body was the Word of God.”

Whatever we may be surrounded by or enmeshed in, this reality doesn’t change:  God is with us.  Politics, economics, sorrow, illness, death, marriage, work, family, siblings, aging, depression, isolation, failure, abuse… even when, to us, God seems distant - God is with us. 

Paul boldly affirms this reality as he writes in Romans, “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38,39)

When the angel Gabriel spoke to Joseph concerning Mary’s pregnancy, he explained the purpose of God’s presence with us.  “She will bear a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21).

America today is a plurality of religions and beliefs and philosophies.  People say “Happy Holidays” so that no one will be offended.  Someone coined the word “Chrihankwanzadan” - to combine Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and Ramadan.  To believe that Jesus is “the” Savior isn’t politically correct. Its not enlightened.  

That we need the Savior is offensive.  It rubs against to our pride.  There’s nothing really wrong with who we are.  Nothing really major anyway.  We’re all a little rough around the edges.  Everyone is.

But, our need for a Savior has nothing to do with who we are outside.  Its inside, who we are before God in sin, that separates us from Him.  Our sin robs us of His peace in the midst of this world’s struggles.

God’s desire for us is not for a partial presence.  His desire is to be with us in all of who we are.  And, God’s salvation is not a partial salvation.  God offers comprehensive salvation which can only come from Him.

God offers to us the forgiveness of our sins, freedom from guilt, a restored purposeful life, and the eternal relationship with God that begins the moment we receive Jesus as the Savior.  He offers to us the peace we crave which only comes as we realize His presence with us regardless of what we are surrounded by or enmeshed in.

Maybe deep down we wonder if it really is true - His coming - what He offers to us.  Can we give ourselves totally over to this God who has come?  Too often we want God to “fix” those parts of our lives that we struggle with or to save only the parts that we’re willing to surrender. 

God says we need to come to Him as He came to us - as a child.  Laying aside our pride, our agendas and restrictions, so that He may completely deal with the reality of our sin and to fill us with His presence.  (Matthew 18:1-4)

As we celebrate the reality of Immanuel (God with us) may we give ourselves completely to Him.  During this joyous time of the year, and always,  may you know His forgiveness, peace, and presence.