Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel, which means, ‘God is with us.’
What does it mean that God is with us?
God came into this world through ordinary, mixed-up people in order to save ordinary, mixed-up people like you and me. I am so grateful that God still comes through ordinary, mixed-up people in order to save ordinary, mixed-up people.
For God to come into the world through a birth like all the millions of other births in the world gives promise of freedom from sin, fear, and death to us and rebirth as the children of God.
The birth of Jesus to a virgin, a young woman in her teenage years, would have been unforgivable in her time. She would have been stoned to death if either Mary or Joseph had made it known. She shared her news from the angel with Joseph. They kept the holy secret that had been revealed to each of them separately by an angel, and then they married to cover up God’s secret work with Mary through the Holy Spirit.
It was a mystery to them that they accepted in faith, just as it is to us as we accept ‘God with us’ in Jesus, as revealed and trusted in by faith in God.
From the beginning there was a strange assortment of those who gathered around the manger where Jesus was born. The family gathered at the manger are not each other’s friends and neighbors, and there are probably no blood relations among any of them at all. The family gathered there were Mary and Joseph, barely married; the shepherds, who’ve never heard of these two before; three foreign dignitaries, not Jewish, not local, and not to be seen ever again; and an assortment of patient beasts.
This unusual cross-section of societal and earthly creatures gathered to witness ‘God with us’ in the birth of Jesus, for the first time. This strange family shows us that ‘God with us’ is for all mankind. We are all family in God’s eyes.
If at all possible you and I gather with our relatives and friends to celebrate Christ’s birth each year. We recall the birth of our Lord by giving gifts to those we love and by giving to people we do not know in foreign lands or people in our own land who are less fortunate and need some reminder that God is with us as Jesus of Nazareth, Son of the living God to share in our human condition.
‘God with us’ is the message of hope for the world this Christmas season.
Most of us can feel downright embarrassed like Mary and Joseph by our struggles and may even wonder if our anguish is unfaithful. I believe it is simply because we are the ordinary mixed-up, sin infested people, who Jesus came to save.
To know that ‘God with us’ in Jesus Christ is the wonder and glory of God’s grace born into this world. This gift of ‘God with us’ in all of life’s events came through ordinary human beings, so that we can know that God loves us in spite of our sinfulness.
May we give God thanks and praise for the birth of Jesus who has come to save us from our sins as we celebrate Christmas this year, and may God continue to bless you in your daily walk with Jesus, ‘God with us.’
- How will you include the birth of ‘God with us’ in your Christmas celebrations this year?
- As you give gifts to others this Christmas how can you make each gift a reminder that it is given because God is with us?
- Remembering the strange gathering of persons who came to visit Jesus at his birth, how would it be to extend your family to include someone who is not family or close friends to celebrate Christmas with you?
Sue is NLS Spiritual Director, since 2019 and is a retired Lutheran Pastor (ELCA). Active in VdC since 1995, she has served two terms on the Board of the Texas VdC Secretariat, and also on the Texas Gulf Coast VdC Board as Spiritual Director since its start-up in 2017.