What does it mean for God to be with us? Was he ever not with us? And does it ever get more personal than God just visiting all of humanity? Is God ever with us, that is, with you and me?
When Matthew gives his account of Jesus’ birth, he leaves no doubt as to the significance. This is just like Isaiah has said, reports Matthew, the virgin’s son is “Immanuel”. For those not versed in Hebrew nomenclature, he spells it out: (which mean, God with us). But what does it mean for us? I’ll suggest three things:
God Really Wasn’t With Us. This may seem like it goes against the Xmas story but wait, it has to be true. Think about it. You can’t announce that someone has just arrived home if they were never out, right? The same is true of God. In the various forms of paganism, God/the gods/spirits were always present in the world. The divine lived in the rocks and trees and rivers. Or in Eastern type religions, there is no distinction between the world and God. But Christianity (Judaism and Islam as well) reveals something different about God. There is a distinction between Creator and Creation. He really is God and we, his creatures, really are not. So for the power of “God with us” to hit you, first it must be acknowledged that he was kind of far away before.
God’s Really With Us. But now God really has come – in the person of His Son, Jesus. When that newborn baby was placed down in that manger, God was truly in the house. In the world in a way He’d never been before. That’s why it is such a big deal. God has always been involved in His creation, acting in it and sustaining it by his word. But now his feet had really touched the dusty ground. God’s perfection isn’t sullied or lessened by entering the world. There’s no hint of negativity that he shows towards the material, the physical, and the ordinary. This world was good from the beginning, and even though it’s been broken, God has come into it. He is really with us in his creation.
God Is Really With You. Really. God in the world and with humanity is a great truth but does it get more personal than that? Is God really with me? or with you? To really grasp and enjoy his nearness we must acknowledge that he really has cause to be far away. As sinners, we are estranged from God and have no right to come before him. He really was far away. But now, through the Gospel of his son, he has near to us. Not counting our sins against us, not withholding his presence from us, he is with us. If you believe God is at your service, easy to stroll right up to, you’ll never grasp that incredibleness of his grace and his condescension to us. In Christ, he is really with you!