All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).
When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.
Among the many hardships of the past year, perhaps the most heartbreaking has been how many people, particularly the elderly, have been unable to visit loved ones, even in the final moments of life. Hospitals and care facilities have severely restricted visitors, meaning in some cases that husbands and wives have had to stay apart and children have not been able to visit parents or grandparents. Many people have spent months alone, cut off from family and friends. Some have died alone. The pandemic has been cruel in many ways, and we long for healing and the restoration of safe human contact. The Christmas story speaks to the longing we each have in our hearts to be near the ones we love. Jesus’ incarnation touches that God-given desire for intimacy and face-to-face relationship all humans share.
Jesus came as Immanuel. God came to be with us. He broke through the spiritual and earthly barriers between humanity and deity, being born among us so He could walk with us. Jesus not only came near to us, but He actually became one of us, participating fully in the whole range of human experience, from birth through death. It’s one thing for God to know what we are like and to watch over the lives of people on earth, but through Immanuel, God chose to experience it himself.
Now, Jesus’ Spirit dwells within each of his followers, always with us, always near. The incarnation of Immanuel happened 2,000 years ago and lasted only three decades, but the promise of “God with us” remains true today and for eternity. You are never alone. Illness and quarantine can never separate you from God. The comforting presence of the Spirit abides with you through hardship. When you feel cut off from those you love, remember Immanuel. When you can’t touch your family or dear friends, cling to the presence of the Spirit. When sorrow or fear or weariness weigh you down, find strength in the good news that Jesus came into this world to prove how deeply God loves you.Good Father, thank You for sending Jesus into our world and for the abiding presence of Your Spirit in my heart. Give me the assurance that You are always with me, and help me to share the good news of Immanuel with those who feel alone or afraid. I ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Pastor Mike Mirakian