God is with us
"Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign. Behold a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel.” (Isaias/Isaiah 7:14).
“Now all this was done that it might be fulfilled which the Lord spoke by the prophet, saying: Behold a virgin shall be with child, and bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.” (Matthew 1:22-23).
There is a great desire inside every person to know God. From the very beginning, we were made to know God, and there is something in us that wants to know our Creator.
All the prophets spoke of this universal yearning in the human heart. Joel spoke of it, so did Malachi, Hosea, Jeremiah, Daniel and Zechariah. But no one spoke more eloquently than Isaiah. Seven hundred years before the birth of Christ, during the reign of a king named Ahaz, Isaiah predicted the birth of One who would be God coming to dwell with men. Isaiah 7:14 predicts an absolutely stunning event: A virgin would conceive (something that had never happened before and has never happened since) and give birth to a son named “Emmanuel.” From that title comes one of our most-beloved Advent/Christmas carols: O come, O come, Emmanuel.
Now run the clock forward 700 years and you come to the moment when Joseph, having discovered that Mary is pregnant, and suspecting the worst, decides to give her a private divorce to spare her from public shame. Gabriel, the angel of the Lord, came to him in a dream with the reassuring news that the baby inside her womb was not the product of fornication, but had been conceived by the Holy Ghost. Gabriel instructs Joseph to call the baby Jesus (which means “God saves” or “Savior") because he will save his people from their sins. Then Gabriel quotes Isaiah 7:14, with its prophecy of the virgin birth, and the name Emmanuel, which means “God with us.”
Of all the names of Christ, perhaps none is more significant than Emmanuel because it gives us his ultimate identity. He is God come down from heaven in the form of a tiny baby boy. Theologians call this the “Incarnation,” a term that means “to take on human flesh, to be born as a human.” John 1:14 tells us that the Word (that is, Christ) became flesh and dwelt among us. The Word (who was God, see John 1:1) wrapped himself in human flesh. The Son of God descended from heaven to earth and wrapped himself in the frail body of a tiny Jewish baby in a stable, in the little town of Bethlehem, in a forgotten corner of the Roman Empire called Judea. Jesus Christ is God in the flesh. That tiny, helpless baby is the God who created the universe. What a awesome, mind-blowing miracle that is.
“God with us.” There are three words in that phrase and each one teaches us something about who Jesus really is.
I. God with us: A Son
The first word is God. It identifies the baby born in Bethlehem as the divine Son of God who came from heaven to earth. First Timothy 3:16 states that God was “manifested” in the flesh. Jesus Christ is more than a man. He was human but his ultimate identity goes far beyond humanity. He was God come down to earth in the form of a baby born of a virgin.
Let us make no mistake about the importance of this truth to the Christian faith. It is central, fundamental, essential, and absolutely non-negotiable. It is not some “secondary issue” about which we may all have our own private opinions. This is truth that goes to the core of what it means to be a Catholic. If you deny the Incarnation, you are not a Catholic at all.
Muslims, Jehovah Witnesses, Mormons, Jews
But not everyone believes in the Incarnation. And therefore, many people deny that Jesus is the only way to heaven. Those two things go together. If Jesus is God in human flesh, he must be the only way to heaven. The highway to heaven is only open to Christians. The Catholic Church and the early Fathers always taught this. It was not until after the 50's and 60's did some in the Church begin to get wishy washy on this truth. So what about Jews, Muslims, and followers of other faiths?” St. John, inspired to write down Gods words, quotes Jesus as saying, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No man cometh to the Father, but by me.” John 14:6
Not everyone believes that, but we do. He is Emmanuel—God with us. And we gladly commit all that we are to him.
II. God with us: A Shepherd
The second word of Emmanuel reminds us that Jesus is not only God in the flesh, he is also the shepherd we need when troubles come our way. Ironically, we need that truth more than ever at Christmastime. (By the way Christmas starts on the 25th. It does not end there. We have 40 days after that of celebration!) This is a lonely time of year for many people. In the midst of the laughter, there is pain and sadness, grief and many reminders of broken relationships. Some family reunions are like war zones, and much of the drinking that is done is not so much drinking because we are happy but drinking to cover our pain. And most people feel exhausted and stressed. During this difficult time of year for many people, we need to be reminded that the Lord knows all about our troubles.
We can say it more forcefully than that. Jesus knows what others do not know about you. He knows all the hidden secrets, the inner fears, and the unspoken doubts about what tomorrow may bring. He knows the whole truth about you and me, and he loves us anyway.
What is your valley today? Is it the valley of pain? The valley of a loved one suffering? The valley of bad health? The valley of a failing marriage? The valley of a loved one in the military who may go to war soon? The valley of children in trouble? The valley of broken promises and failed relationships? The valley of career disappointment? The valley of financial crisis? The valley of temptation? The valley of bitterness? The valley of bondage to sin? Whatever valley you may be walking through today, the Lord Jesus knows who you are and where you are. You are not lost or forgotten.
We need to settled in our mind the truth of who God is.We need to learn to trust in God’s sovereignty. I discovered that God is faithful in all things. We need to be reminded that Jesus Christ is the Son of God who loved us and gave himself for us. We need to re-commit our lives to Him. Do it daily.
I don’t know for certain what the future holds for me. I do know that I am in the good hands of the Lord.
Let us discovered anew the wonderful truth of Emmanuel—He is God with us. The familiar words of the Psalm 22/23 come to mind: “For though I should walk in the midst of the shadow of death, I will fear no evils” (v. 4). Do you know the most wonderful word in that beloved psalm? It’s the little word “you.” Have you ever noticed how David changes his mode of address when he talks about the Lord? In the first verses he refers to God in the third person: “He hath set me in a place of pasture.… He hath led me… He hath brought me up… He hath converted my soul" He speaks of God in a formal way: “He … He … He.” But when he comes to the darkest, saddest, most fearful moment of life, David’s experience of God becomes very personal. “thou art with me” It’s no longer “he.” Now the God of the universe has become David’s personal shepherd. “though I should walk in the midst of the shadow of death..." thou art with me." O Lord, walk with me. I am not alone. I am not abandoned. I don’t have to make that final journey on my own. Thank God for the word “thou.” It’s a promise we can all count on in the saddest moments of life. The Lord will go with you. He will be by your side, and when the dark currents rise around you, the Lord himself will carry you safely to the other side. No evil can touch us. No need to fear for the Lord himself is with us.
Immanuel—God with us in the darkest of dark valleys. Our shepherd walks with us when we need him most.
III. God with us: A Savior
The angel told Joseph to name the baby Jesus “because he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). And in Luke 2:11 the angel announced to the shepherds, “For, this day, is born to you a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord, in the city of David." You will never understand who Jesus is until you realize that he came to save you from your sins. This is why he lived, this is why he died, and this is why he rose from the dead. "For the Son of man (Jesus/Emmanuel) is come to seek and to save that which was lost." (Luke 19:10). And he saves all those who trust in him and follow him in baptism.
"Do penance (repent), and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of your sins:" (Acts 2:39)
If our greatest need had been education, God would have sent a Professor.
If our greatest need had been money, God would have sent a banker.
If our greatest need had been advice, God would have sent a counselor.
If our greatest need had been pleasure, God would have sent an entertainer.
But since our greatest need was forgiveness of sin, God sent a Savior. His name is Jesus, Emmanuel. He is Christ the Lord, the Son of God who came from heaven to earth.
And that brings us right back to the doctrine of the Incarnation. Who is that baby born on Christmas day? As the familiar carol puts it, “This, this is Christ the King, whom shepherds guard and angels sing; haste, haste to bring him laud, the babe, the Son of Mary.” He is the divine Son of God from heaven who in his earthly birth took on a fully human nature. All that God is and all that man is meet in perfect union in Jesus Christ. He is fully God and fully man—the God-man who came to earth to save us from our sins.
Do you know Jesus Christ as your Saviour?
1. Realize that you are a sinner- We inherited Adam’s sinful nature and are sinful from the moment of conception.
"Wherefore as by one man sin entered into this world, and by sin death; and so death passed upon all men, in whom all have sinned." (Romans 5:12)
What is the consequences of Sin?
"For the wages of sin is death." (Romans 6:23A)
2. Believe on Jesus as the one who bore your sin, died in your place, was buried, and whom God resurrected.
"But as many as received him, he gave them power to be made the sons of God, to them that believe in his name." (John 1:12)
Repentance is to have such a sorrow for something, that it makes you want to change your mind and your actions toward that thing.
"Be penitent, (repent) therefore, and be converted (turn back or change your mind), that your sins may be blotted out." (Acts 3:19)
Once you have done this you will want to continue in the Christian Life, following Christ and Growing in your spiritual life.
4. You must desire and seek to be baptized.
"Do penance, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of your sins: and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost." (Acts 2:38)
Once you have done this you will want to continue in the Christian Life, following Christ and Growing in your spiritual life.
5. You must be subject to Jesus' holy Church
"Now you are the body of Christ, and members of member. And God indeed hath set some in the church; first apostles, secondly prophets, thirdly doctors; after that miracles; then the graces of healing, helps, governments, kinds of tongues, interpretations of speeches." (I Corinthians 12:27-28)
6. Have a daily life of Prayer and Reading of scriptures asking the Spirit to teach you truth from its pages with the guidance of the Church to keep you from error.
Let my prayer be directed as incense in thy sight; the lifting up of my hands, as evening sacrifice. (Psalms 140/141:2)
Thy words have I hidden in my heart, that I may not sin against thee. (Psalms 118/119:11)
Thy word is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my paths. (Psalms 118/119:105)
7. Keep your heart right with Christ and his Church through the sacrament of confession.
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all iniquity. (I John 1:9)
Confess therefore your sins one to another: and pray one for another, that you may be saved. For the continual prayer of a just man availeth much. (James 5:16)
8. Keep the Commandments of God
"If you love me, keep my commandments." (John 14:15)
9. Keep Holy the Lord's Day
"Six days shall you do work: in the seventh day is the sabbath, the rest holy to the Lord. Every one that shall do any work on this day, shall die." (Exodus 31:15)
All that God has to say to us can be wrapped up in one word: “Jesus” And not just any Jesus, but only the Lord Jesus Christ revealed in Scriptures and The Catholic Church. He alone is the Lord from heaven. He alone can save us. All that God has for you and me is wrapped up in his Son. No matter what difficulties we face or the decisions we must make, in the end God leads us back to that simple one-word answer: “Jesus.”