The following post is written by Kurt Nelson, President and CEO of East-West.
Did you know there are 350 names, titles, and descriptive phrases for Jesus in the Bible? Today, in the spirit of Christmas, I want to focus on one: Immanuel—“God with us”.
Have you ever been completely alone and terrified?
I can remember a moment like this for me. It was 1985 and I was walking around east Dallas in the neighborhood where I lived while attending Dallas Theological Seminary—an area notorious for sporadic gun shots—around midnight after a long work shift. I saw the shadowy figure of a man on the street and presumed he was harmless until I heard the distinctive sound of the pump action loading a shell in a shotgun he was carrying. I was all alone, feared for my life, and ran like the wind.
I share that story to make a point that life in this fallen world can be very frightening, especially when we feel all alone. Having a companion is always better.
Since that night in east Dallas, I have been in many other scary situations but with friends and not alone. That has made all the difference. As Scripture tells us, “two are better than one” (Ecclesiastes 4:9). And while human companionship can be reassuring, God’s faithful, never-ending companionship with us makes all the difference.
Mankind has sought God’s Presence for thousands of years. Moses wrote of his dialogue with God about the necessity of God’s presence.
“The Lord replied, ‘My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.’” Then Moses said to him, ‘If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here’” (Exodus 33:14-15).
Centuries later Joshua offered the people of Israel God’s promise of His sustaining presence when he wrote, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).
But until 2,000 years ago, God’s presence was never constant. It was always transitory, but that all changed with the birth of Jesus when God came down to be with us forever. The first of 43 Messianic names given to Jesus in Matthew’s gospel was Immanuel, “God with us” (Matthew 1:23).
Christmas is the eternal guarantee that God is always with us in this challenging world. The incarnation of God in Jesus assures us of eternal, unbroken intimacy with the Almighty God!
“If we could condense all the truths of Christmas into only three words, these would be the words: ‘God with us.’ We tend to focus our attention at Christmas on the infancy of Christ. The greater truth of the holiday is His deity. More astonishing than a baby in the manger is the truth that this promised baby is the omnipotent Creator of the heavens and the earth!” -John MacArthur
In Matthew 28:20 the resurrected Jesus declares, “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” And Hebrews 13:5-6 reminds us, “God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’ So we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?’”
Because of the birth of Jesus and His indwelling Holy Spirit, God Almighty is with us—forever and always! The Lord Jesus is always our ever-present helper! Because the Holy Spirit indwells you and me right now, Jesus’ Presence will never leave us or forsake us and is always present to help us no matter the circumstances.
That is the true Christmas miracle—and a key we proclaim truth as we seek to multiply disciples of Jesus in the spiritually darkest areas of the world!
“Christmas is based on an exchange of gifts, the gift of God to man—His unspeakable gift of His Son, and the gift of man to God—when we present our bodies a living sacrifice.” -Vance Havner
John Piper writes in his Advent devotional, The Dawning of Indestructible Joy:
“The coming of Jesus was a search-and-save mission. ‘The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.’ […] Jesus came into the world at the first Advent, and every Advent since as a reminder of his continual advent into more and more lives. And that advent is, in fact, our advent—our coming, our moving into the lives of those around us and into the peoples of the world.”
Immanuel. God is with us, for us, in us, and working through us “to will and to work for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13)!
“Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!” -2 Corinthians 9:15