“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall call his name Immanuel”
(which means, God with us).
"... And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Matthew 1:23, Matthew 28:20
Oh how much we love this time of year! It’s Christmas time! All the Grinches retreat with frowny faces into their caves, and all the joyful people come out and sing Frank Sinatra and Michael Bublé. I love Christmas. It’s just a shame how quickly it comes and goes. Much of life is that way.
People come and go. It’s an unfortunate part of life. There are very few permanent relationships that we maintain, especially with regards to quantity of time and quality of relationship. Friendships often change. I experienced this phenomenon recently. My best friend from elementary school married, and I was not invited to the wedding. For a short time I was saddened by the reality we had grown distant, but I briefly reminisced and was thankful for the time and place of our friendship in my childhood, the role it played in my life, and how happy I am that he found the love of his life. People like that are wonderful in life, but they often come and go.
Events come and go. It’s an unfortunate part of life as well. Have you ever had a moment in time or a day in your life you wish you could somehow DVR and store in the high-definition section of your brain to be replayed from time to time? I can think of a couple—taking batting practice with my dad behind Ben Franklin Elementary School before every Little League game, or the Sunday night I was baptized and knew something significant had occurred yet wasn’t capable of putting the significance into words, or the joy of my wedding reception as I lip-synced on stage to Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’” as family and friends danced and celebrated with us for hours. Events like that are wonderful in life, but they often come and go.
As good as these things are, the best things in life are those that don’t come and go but remain—those that are always with us; those that arrive on the scene of our lives and grow fuller and more delightful over time. Their presence is available, and their relationship ongoing. As time passes, the relationship takes fuller color. There is an abiding presence, a remaining fellowship, an ongoing enjoyment. It’s harder to name these things, for they are fewer and far between though, in my opinion, the heart of life. They are always with us.
Immanuel. That is our introduction to Jesus. God with us. It is the echo of Advent. The One who would come in Matthew 1 and go in Matthew 28 in the exact same name…I am with you. This is the essence of our celebration of Advent: God in the flesh arrived, entered, and came for us to save those who are His from their sins. He came to do for us in human form what we could never do for ourselves, to live the life we should have lived and die the death we should have died to give us life we don’t deserve. But that’s not necessarily explicit in this name. This name implies more than God for us. It is God with us. He didn’t solely come to do something notable for us; He came to abide with us.
Immanuel. This might be the very place you need to ruminate this season because you might be like me—you often consider God doing something for you but not God abiding with you. He is an abiding presence, a remaining fellowship, and ongoing enjoyment. He grows fuller and more delightful over time. His presence is available, and his offer of relationship ongoing. He does not come and go but is with us always, even to the end of the age.
Immanuel. It might be advent-ageous to remember this season that, in Christ, God is not just for you always but with you always. The parentheses of Matthew 1:23 is the parentheses of your life. Joy to the world, the Lord is come. He is with us. Let every heart prepare Him room.