We all have that moment when we become acutely aware that we are a solitary creature in this world. It is a kind of ‘aloneness’ that has nothing to do with loneliness. It is more about feeling incomplete, and the roots are spiritual. Children may not consciously think of it but they cry out for a parent and cling tightly so that they will not feel it. Teens begin to know their individuality and then often become part of group that gives them a sense of ‘belonging.’ Adults join associations, become fans of a sports team, join a church, to bolster their sense of inclusion. Our ‘selfies’ and Facebook posts are often a protest that says “I exist and I matter.” But, deep inside, a basic sense that we are alone persists unless we find the true answer to existential anxiety.
Christmas includes a message from God to each one of us about the ultimate answer to our sense of being alone. Matthew, in his Gospel, quotes Isaiah’s prophecy about the arrival of the Messiah. “Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and he will be called Immanuel (meaning, God is with us).” (Matthew 1:23, NLT)
God is near- “Immanuel, God with us!” In Christ Jesus, we find that relationship that gives us the greatest peace, that survives all others, with One who will never leave us, betray us. We know Him in a way that survives even the final separation – death. We do not have play the human games that people play to find acceptance with others. He knows us and loves us. We are assured that Immanuel did not come just to be among those who are ‘together,’ or rich, or beautiful, or brave, or intelligent. Jesus Christ, is the God of the uncertain, the forgotten, the weak, those sometimes discarded by those among whom they live who are in a search for something or someone that they hope will ease their sense of walking alone.
- The Father chose a young girl from a hill town to bring His Son into this world.
- He was born in the animal shelter ‘out back,’ because the room ‘up front’ was full. Just maybe the kinsfolk of Joseph in Bethlehem had ‘no room’ specifically because they knew that Mary’s pregnancy was a scandal.
- The royal family in Judah determined early on to kill Him, and Jesus’ family became fugitives for a time until Herod’s death.
- As He began His adult ministry, Mark tells us that His own family thought He was mentally unstable and tried to bring Him home to avoid embarrassment.
- At the end of His short life, He hung naked, pinned to a rough cross, bleeding to death, while passers-by hurled insults at Him. Pilate mocked Him – “The King of the Jews” read the sign ordered nailed above Him as He died, a cruel joke.
In all of this we are reminded that our God is not far away. He came to be one of us, with us, to know the life we live. Yes, He is Immanuel.
Immanuel is not just a Name. It’s a statement. He understands YOU. As you face your existential questions, when you wrestle with weariness in life, when you are overcome by brokenness, if you are told you are not worthy of being ‘included,’ Immanuel says, “I’m here always!” Know that He offers more than sympathy. In Him you are ‘included!’ “And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.” (Ephesians 1:13-14, NIV)
Mary’s song captures the joy we can know because of the Christmas promise. Read it thoughtfully today. Note the triumph in the words, spoken prophetically, and with great hope. Particularly note that she rejoices that God knows her, ‘He took notice of me!’
“Oh, how I praise the Lord. How I rejoice in God my Savior! For he took notice of his lowly servant girl, and now generation after generation will call me blessed. For he, the Mighty One, is holy, and he has done great things for me. His mercy goes on from generation to generation, to all who fear him. His mighty arm does tremendous things! How he scatters the proud and haughty ones! He has taken princes from their thrones and exalted the lowly. He has satisfied the hungry with good things and sent the rich away with empty hands. And how he has helped his servant Israel! He has not forgotten his promise to be merciful. For he promised our ancestors-Abraham and his children- to be merciful to them forever.” (Luke 1:46-55, NLT)
Not alone, not unknown, not destined to know isolation. Immanuel has brought you into the Father’s family, restored your relationship with the Holy One. Exult in that today.
Our word from the Word points us to the security that comes from knowing our Immanuel.
“And now you also have heard the truth, the Good News that God saves you.
And when you believed in Christ,
He identified you as his own by giving you the Holy Spirit, whom he promised long ago.
The Spirit is God’s guarantee that he will give us everything he promised
and that he has purchased us to be his own people.
This is just one more reason for us to praise our glorious God.” (Ephesians 1:13-14, NLT)
Immanuel, what a beautiful Name.
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