This is the Good News. There is no greater news. God with us.
We see the phrase in Matthew’s gospel (1:23), “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, ‘God with us’). This is cited from the prophet Isaiah, who prophesied on the birth of the Messiah some 700 years before the event. In fact, Isaiah 7:14 is cited exactly by Matthew in that this prophecy was about to be fulfilled!
While we know that and even sing songs each Christmas about Immanuel, have we taken time to really consider the implications of “God With Us?” Well, it actually frames Matthew’s entire gospel. He is saying that not only is Jesus the Christ (the long-awaited Messiah), He is God Himself. Matthew both starts and ends his gospel with the fact that God is with His people in Jesus: “God with us” to begin his book and Jesus reassuring His disciples that He will be with them (us) always, “to the end of the age” in his closing words (28:20).
The theme of God being with us is not limited to those verses, though. Throughout the entire Bible, God wants us to know that He is with us. In fact, every time I come across a Scripture that says God is with me, I am not only comforted, but also made joyful! Here are a few examples:
Joshua 1:8- “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
Zephaniah 3:17- “The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.”
Psalm 23-“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”
However, in Matthew’s gospel, there are three important distinctions I want to highlight.
1. For the first time in human history, God incarnate was coming to live among us. God in the flesh. The apostle John, in his gospel, makes that clear: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). So God was now physically with us when Jesus was born.
2. Jesus speaks words of assurance and comfort to his men who did not want Jesus to go once they saw Him after the resurrection. That’s when He told them that He would be with them until “the end of the age.” This comes after His marching orders to His disciples when He gave them the “Great Commission.” This is Jesus’ final charge to them— to go make disciples! Jesus’ ascension would also make possible the special promise He made to them when He assured them of “Another,” a “Helper” who would not only dwell with them but in them after He physically left the earth (John 14:17). This would actually materialize about ten days later, on Pentecost, when the promised Holy Spirit arrived (Acts 2: 2-4). Because of that, God is with us and in us!
3. While God dwelling with His people was the climatic and greatest blessing in the Old Testament, it was also hindered by Israel’s rebellion against Him. Remarkably, in Jesus, God has provided for salvation from sin. We are no longer separated from a Holy God because Jesus came, first as a tiny babe wrapped in swaddling clothes (Luke 2:12), who then grew into a man without sin, becoming sin for us through His death on the cross (2 Corinthians 5:21).
And to think, it all began with “God with us.” I cannot think of a better reason to celebrate the birth of Immanuel!
Pastor Joe Garofalo