Therefore, the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel. – Isaiah 7:14
Both a question and a statement. A name and a declaration. But what does it mean? How has it changed our lives? What difference does it really make?
God … with … us.
He was with Adam and Eve, you know. In the garden. Everything provided. If you needed it, they had it, but it all changed. “God with us,” truth with joy before the fall, became “God with us” in fear, after.
He was with Lot and his family as well when He warned them to flee the devastation of Sodom and Gomorrah, but that also changed and out of sin two wicked nations plagued God’s people for centuries.
Of course, He was with Abraham when the land was promised, with Isaac and Jacob when that promise was repeated, with Moses and all Israel as they escaped Egyptian slavery, crossed the sea, and met Him at Mt. Sinai. Yet, they still wandered for 40 years and Moses nor Aaron were allowed to enter, wondering perhaps at times, is God still with us?
God was with Samuel when the future prophet and priest, in obedience to Eli answered Him, saying, “Speak Lord, for your servant is listening.” He was also with Samuel when he anointed Saul as king, and after Saul’s disobedience, anointed his successor, David. He was with that same David when he faced down a giant, eluded Saul’s hatred, and yet, David still murdered Uriah and took his wife. God was with Solomon in all his wisdom. He was with Elijah on Mt. Carmel, but also with that same Elijah when he hid from the evil Jezebel. Our God was with Isaiah, Jeremiah, Elisha, Ezekiel, and every other prophet, who though rejected, steadfastly warned Israel of the consequences of their rebellion, forecasting a day when God would truly be with us.
God was with all of the Old Testament saints and after 400 years of silence … 400 years after Malachi foretold the advent of a new “Elijah” … 400 years without so much as a recorded “peep” from heaven … a heavenly host broke the silence, joined their voices with that of a baby’s first cry, and proclaimed, “God … With … Us.” Can you believe it? “God with US!”
And He WAS with us.
He was with us in a Bethlehem stable. He was with us in an Egyptian exile. He was with us in a Temple conversation. He was with us in a Canaanite wedding feast, a Gadarene deliverance, a mountainside sermon, when multitudes were fed, blind received their sight, lame walked, lepers were cleansed, sins were forgiven. He was with us as the crowds shouted Hosanna and again as the same crowd shouted, “Crucify!” He was with us as He washed the feet of His followers and as He sweat drops of blood over the agony that was to come. He was with us as the whip tore at his back, the thorns pierced His brow, and the nails penetrated his hands and feet. He was with us on the cross and He was with us in the tomb. God was with us when Thomas doubted, Peter was reconciled, and all watched when He ascended to His Father.
Yes, He WAS with us then and He IS also with us now.
He is with us in our tragedies and he is with us in our victories. He is with us in our weakness and He is with us in our strength. God is with us in our disobedience and our obedience. He is with us in spite of our pandemics, our persecutions, our politics, and our petty personal grievances. Craig Groeschel said, “Never let the presence of a storm cause you to doubt the presence of God.”
Indeed, in the Person of Jesus (the Messiah, the Christ, the Savior, the Son of the living God), God is with us, but that presence is conditional. For it is not enough for Him to have been with mankind, He must also inhabit your life. He must not only be WITH us, He must be IN us and this can only occur if we have put our faith and trust in Him.
God is with us, but is He with you?
Billy Graham once said that the very purpose of Christ’s coming into the world was that He might offer up His life as a sacrifice for the sins of men. He came to die. This is the heart of Christmas.
It may seem like an odd time to talk about sin, but Jesus came to save us from it in principle and in practice.
What is sin?
According to John Piper, “It is the glory of God not honored. The holiness of God not reverenced. The greatness of God not admired. The power of God not praised. The truth of God not sought. The wisdom of God not esteemed. The beauty of God not treasured. The goodness of God not savored. The faithfulness of God not trusted. The commandments of God not obeyed. The justice of God not respected. The wrath of God not feared. The grace of God not cherished. The presence of God not prized. The person of God not loved. That is sin.”
And Jesus put aside His glory, took the form of a bond servant, and humbled Himself by becoming obedient to a cross-kind of death, so that we could be delivered from sin’s penalty.
One more quote, and this from the eminent theologian (tongue-in-cheek) Dr. Seuss, “And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes, or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled ’till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.”
Indeed, it does. It’s Christmas. Receive the gift that is Jesus. God … with … us.