“Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a Son, and they shall call His name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.” - Matthew 1:23
Merry Christmas to all. Hopefully by now all our shopping is done, the gifts are wrapped, the decorations are hung, the plans are set, and the food is prepared. And it is good to celebrate Christmas this way, also with Christmas trees and lights, the giving and receiving of gifts. As long as we know in our hearts that Jesus is really so much more than all that. He means so much more than just a decoration, or a plate of food.
Jesus is God with us, our Lord, Emmanuel. Emmanuel is a Hebrew word that literally means, “With us-God”, the God who is with us. Through Jesus, God is with us every step of the way, to be our Savior, to be everything we need for salvation.
He is with us in the forgiveness of our sins, in the promise of everlasting life. He is with us in the gift of saving faith and the gift of His Word and Spirit, which supports and keeps us in the true saving faith.
In many other ways too He is with us. But still, things often happen in life that can leave us wondering where He is. This past year America has seen a lot of tragedies, a lot of attacks and disasters. After people get hurt, it is such a natural response, to ask, “God, where are you now? God, I can’t see you. God, I can’t feel you. God, I can’t understand you. God I really can’t talk to you the way that I’d like to, the way I talk to my family and friends.”
Joseph must have felt that way too when he learned Mary was pregnant. He knew he had nothing to do with her pregnancy. They weren’t officially married yet, only engaged. There’s only one conclusion he could draw from this – that Mary had been unfaithful. And where was God in all of that?
But we see that God was in fact very much with them both at that time. God knew of Joseph’s plan to privately cancel their engagement. Joseph didn’t want to make a public show of how he thought Mary had sinned. But as loving as Joseph’s plan was, it still wasn’t the right plan, because it wasn’t God’s plan. And so God intervened. “While he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.”
It was so important that not only Mary, but Joseph too believed the miracle of Christ’s conception. And that is a miracle in and of itself, that he did believe. It would have been so much easier to believe that she was unfaithful. But Joseph believed the miracle. Without any evidence – without any lab experiments to back it up. Really nothing at all to verify it was true. All he had was God’s Word, and that was all he needed. For “faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.”
And this is really the exact same miracle that happens in our heart too – the miracle of faith, by God’s Word and Spirit. We really don’t have any physical evidence. We do have many witnesses, recorded in Scripture, and in history, that Jesus lived. But we don’t have any physical evidence that proves Jesus was conceived and born by a miracle. All we have is God’s Word. And that is all that we need. For God is with us through the Word. His Spirit works in us through His Word.
And so when the question is raised, “Where is God in all of this?” We can say with confidence, He is with us. We can know God always has a plan for us, just as He did for Joseph. Even when that plan is very hard to understand, and is nothing like what we have in mind - we can still know God is with us. And it is the absolute best plan for us, the plan that best serves our eternal soul.
“Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, They shall call His name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.”
God is with us, in the birth of His Son. Not only on Christmas Eve – but after all the decorations are put away. After many children are wishing that Christmas isn’t over, we can know that it really isn’t over. Christ the Savior is still born for us. And God is still with us in His Son – to strengthen us, to comfort us, to give us everything we need for salvation - the peace of sins forgiven and the hope of everlasting life. He is with us in His Word. He is with us in our Baptism, wherein He connected water to the Word to wash our sin away. He is with us in the Sacrament of the altar, in the true body and blood of the Savior, given and shed for us for the remission of all our sins.
“They shall call His name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.”
Most of all, God was with us when Jesus went to the cross to make satisfaction for all our sins. He was with us when He rose from the grave, and in His promise that we too will rise.
But it’s important to know that He continues to be with us. Not because we did or didn’t get the gift we wanted, but because we got the gift we needed. Our Lord, Emmanuel. God is with us in His Son, Jesus.
May we all have a very Merry Christmas, and a happy, blessed New Year, with Jesus, our Lord, Emmanuel, in our hearts and minds, by His Word, by His Spirit. Christ the Savior is born. God is with us. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
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