Immanuel—God with Us

It’s almost here: that wonderful time of year when we celebrate the arrival of the Christ child, the baby Jesus.

We’re surrounded by reminders of this baby cradled in his mother’s arms. Max Lucado describes the scene so well: “Divinity entering the world on the floor of a stable, through the womb of a teenager, and in the presence of a mere carpenter.” Jesus was and is truly Immanuel—God with us.

John reminds us that Jesus pitched his tent among us; he made his dwelling among us. Yet Scripture also reminds us that Jesus was not welcome. He was seen as a stranger, an alien, an intruder in his time and place.

Where we see the Savior, the world sees a misfit. Even Jesus’ own community did not recognize him. He was not a person of power, of means, of note. Like his grandmother Ruth, he was an outsider. Even those who most expected him, who had studied the Scriptures, who were experts—they failed to recognize him too.

They expected a hero, a son of David. They expected one who would be born in the palace of a king, who would restore the kingdom of Israel. What they got was a child born in a cave. What they got was the son of a peasant woman. What they got was someone who was despised and rejected.

While the world anticipated a savior, God in his wisdom and grace provided a Savior. God’s plan was not a more comfortable life but a life reconciled to himself—a life of relationship with him.

That infant head resting softly on Mary’s shoulder would one day wear a crown of thorns. Those perfect, tiny hands would one day be pierced by iron spikes. That tender mouth would one day cry out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

God’s plan included not a stallion but a donkey, not a coronation but a crucifixion, not a palace but a grave. God’s plan was not what you or I would have designed or expected. But it was what our Father knew would open the doors to eternal life.

In Jesus, God moved into our neighborhood, our world, with all its pain, sorrow, shame, and sin. The One who created the universe, who molded and shaped our first parents, who made each of us in his own image, became one of us. The Word became flesh.

I cannot imagine it. I cannot fathom the depth of that love. I cannot translate such grace into mere words. No greater gift, no greater love, no greater sacrifice has ever been seen before. 

In a world dominated by prestige and power, it is God’s love that leads to hope. In a world where stocks and bonds are the measure of one’s worth, God’s grace brings value and meaning to life. In a world focused on “me” and “mine,” Jesus’ sacrifice puts everything into perspective—the right perspective.

When we see life from God’s perspective, our attitude and our expectations radically change. A peace beyond human explanation replaces our worries and frustrations. Love and compassion outweigh financial concerns. We begin to experience life in the fullness of Christ.

As the morning fog vanishes before the sun’s glow, so our expectations give way to God’s plan and God’s will. We look to Christmas with the expectations of those who desire the very attitude of Jesus.

May God bless you as you celebrate Immanuel—God with us.

About the Author

Jerry Dykstra served as the executive director of the Christian Reformed Church in North America from 2006-2011.
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