Matthew 1:23 “Look! The virgin will conceive child! She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us.’”
God is with us. That is good news. And if we ponder the name Emmanuel in light of the Scripture from Romans 5: 6 “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us,” it takes on a new depth. While we were busy running our own lives, keeping God out, Christ was born in a manger, walked among us, ate with us, and died for us. While we were enemies of God, busy building walls to keep God and others at a distance, Jesus entered our world, invaded our space, and loved us with his life. While we were slaves to ourselves, to sin and death, God came to be with us.
Yet the message I hear sometimes from Christians is “God is with us but not with you.” Oh, we don’t say it so blatantly but we say it nonetheless in word and deed. In arguments or debates, we say God is against you because you are a sinner, a democrat, a republican, fill in the blank ____________ by calling them heretics, sinners, unbiblical. I wonder how many times when I pulled back from someone’s touch that was homeless or sick, I sent the message “God is not with you.” Yet the message of the Incarnation is “God is with us.” Christ came and touched the untouchables. I wonder how many times I have placed boundaries between me and someone else because of political or theological differences, sending the message “God is with me but not you.” Yet when Christ was on earth, he bridged those divides, tore down the walls which separated humanity and God, as well as people from each other. By being in his presence, the people were called to new life and changed. They were not required to change and then God would be with them. The Good News was and still is---“hey sinners! God is with you!”
We celebrate the Incarnation—God chose not to allow our sinfulness to keep us from him. In fact, while we were yet sinners, the Word became flesh and tabernacled among us. May we reflect the truth God is with us—sinners and saints, republican and democrat, homeless and middle class and upper class, sick and healthy, imprisoned and law abiding, straight and not. God is with us. Let us journey deeper into that truth. Let us live like God is with us and with those who are not like us. Let us trust God to bring us to life again. I want to declare with my words and my life “Immanuel!”