Years ago, I was challenged by an older lady in my life to ask God for something new to meditate on each Christmas season. This year as I thought about the coming Christmas season, I kept thinking about the fact that God is with us. Isaiah 7:14 prophecies that a virgin would conceive and bear a son and his name would be called Emmanuel. Matthew 1:23 is the fulfillment of that prophecy. The verse in Matthew also tells us the meaning of that name…God with us. What does it mean that God is with us?
God’s presence is a theme throughout Scripture. When God called Abraham to leave all that was familiar to him and move to an unknown place, He promised Abraham, “I will be with you.” After Jacob deceived his father into giving him the blessing, he was sent away to find a wife from the daughters of Laban. Jacob had sinned and yet God promised him that He would be with him and protect him and bring him back to his homeland. The Lord was with Joseph in all of his trials, afflictions and false accusations and fulfilled the promises that He made to him. God was with Moses and the Israelites as they left Egypt and He performed great miracles on their behalf. He promised Joshua that He would be with him just as He was with Moses. I could go on and on and list many more examples…but what does that mean for all of us today?
Psalm 46:1 tells us that God is an ever-present help in times of trouble. In Jeremiah 23:24, God Himself says that He fills heaven and earth. There is nowhere that we can hide from Him. Psalm 139:7-10 tells us that no matter where we are, He is there! He is with each one of us all the time! We are human. We can’t be everywhere all the time. I can’t even be in two places at once. I have to choose where I will be. But God never has to choose. He is with each one of us no matter where we are on the earth, whether it is in Japan or the Philippines or America. This is beyond my understanding.
He is with us in our times of celebration. In John chapter 2, Jesus performed His first miracle. He chose a wedding to perform this miracle and begin His public ministry. Not only was this wedding a time of celebration, it was a time of need. The host ran out of wine. This would have been a huge embarrassment, but Jesus turned water into wine. And just not any wine, but the best. All the guests were talking about it. Not only did He save the host from embarrassment, but He made the host look good in front of all his guests. God always meets our needs as only He can. I love when God does this in such a way that I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that it came from Him. George Mueller, a godly man of prayer known for the orphanages that he ran, would pray for his tremendous needs. He never told anyone what the needs were, only God. And God met them every single time in His perfect way. We can claim Philippians 4:19, “But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” This is just as true for us as it was for the wedding host at Canaan and for George Mueller.
God is also with us in our suffering. Jesus knew what it was to suffer. He suffered great persecution and death on a cross. He suffered abandonment by his friends and the betrayal of someone that He loved deeply. We can expect to suffer in this world as a result of our own sin and the sins of others. Jesus told us that just as He was persecuted, we can expect to be persecuted too. But Hebrews 12:1-4 gives us hope. We are told to run with patience or perseverance while fixing our eyes on Jesus. We can think on Him and all that He endured as our example of how to suffer. If we do this, we can endure our sufferings without growing weary or giving up as we are so prone to do.
Matthew 4 records the temptations that Jesus Himself endured. He showed by His example how we can endure as well. He answered each temptation with Scripture. We are promised in 1 Corinthians 10:13 that, “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” God is with us in our times of temptation and provides for us during those times.
He is with us in our times or exhaustion. Mark 6:31 tells of a time when Christ and the disciples were so busy, they didn’t even have time to eat. He called them away with Him “into a desert place, [to] rest a while.” He calls to us as well in Matthew 11:28-30, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” This is an open invitation to all who will hear.
When we read about the death of Lazarus, we learn that God is with us in our times of grief. Martha and Mary both thought that Jesus came too late. They both said that if He had only come earlier, Lazarus would not have died. But He had a better plan. He wept with them in their grief because of their lack of understanding of what He was able to do and then He did the unimaginable…raising Lazarus from the dead! In our times of grief, we don’t always understand what He is doing, but He is there. His plan is always best. He may allow someone to leave this earth instead of leaving them here as we so often beg Him to do. But His plan is far better. First, if the loved one is a believer, they will be with Him because we know that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. Second, He wants us to draw into a closer relationship with Him and trust what He is doing through this time, even when we don’t understand. The psalmist cries in chapter 119, verse 28, “My soul is weary with sorrow; strengthen me according to your word.” This is a time when we may experience God’s grace as we never have before. God’s ways are so much higher than ours and He always does more than we can even think to ask.
Do you need peace? He not only gives us that peace as he says in John 14:27, but Ephesians 2:14 tells us that He Himself is our peace!
Do you need a friend? He is with us when we need a friend. In Luke 5:20, He called the paralyzed man ‘Friend’ before He healed him. Later in that same chapter, He tells a parable when asked about fasting. He asks the question, “Can you make the friends of the bridegroom fast while the bridegroom is with them?” inferring that those who followed Him were His friends. John 15:14 quotes Jesus as saying that we are His friends if we do what He commands.
As I reflect over this list, I have to ask myself why? Why would He do all of this? Why Would God send His Son and why was His Son willing to come? For God so loved that He gave…LOVE is the reason. In John 17:23, Jesus prays that we would understand that God, the Father, loves us exactly the same as He loves His only Son! Our human nature cannot understand this kind of love! God has to answer His Son’s prayer and reveal it us!
Emmanuel…God with us!!! God with us in our times of celebration and need. God with us in our times of suffering and temptations. When we are exhausted and grieving, God is with us. When we need peace or just need a friend…God with us! What a wonderful gift God has given to us…a memory and a promise to carry with us throughout this next year and in the years to come.