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Unwrapping the Presence

“Behold, a virgin shall be with child and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.” (Matt. 1:23 KJV)


Christmas is a joyous time of the year. The season is filled with hope and anticipation as people look forward to shopping and spending time with family and friends. While some may claim that Christmas is too commercialized, it will always be meaningful to those who genuinely understand what gift-giving represents. Even non-Christians celebrate God’s gift to the world, whether they recognize it or not. 


The excitement that Christmas brings is contagious. Whether giving or receiving, gifts are central to celebrating the holiday. One of the blessings of the holiday is that it causes us to focus on ways to bring joy to others. On the first Christmas, the angel announced the good news of Jesus’ birth to a group of shepherds,

And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.  For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. (Lk. 2:10,11 KJV).

Upon hearing the news, the shepherds went hurriedly to see the Christ child. But they did not stop with observation; they shared the joyful news with everyone (v. 17). At Christmas, we should also share the news that the promised Savior has come as a gift to all people.


Even though God lived among his people in the Old Testament, his presence was veiled. The Israelites worshipped God in the Tabernacle, but only the High Priest could enter into his presence - which happened only once per year. Isaiah prophesied the birth of Jesus, saying that a virgin would have a son and call him Immanuel (Isa. 7:14 emphasis mine). In his Gospel, John associates this prophecy with the birth of Jesus, stating that “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:8a).  


In recounting the birth of Christ, Matthew also notes that his birth fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy. Again, stating that Jesus would be called Emmanuel (Matt. 1:24). The name Emmanuel (NT Greek spelling of Immanuel) speaks of the incarnation of Jesus. Emmanuel means “God with us” and reveals that Jesus is God in the flesh (John 1:14). Thus, Emanuel is one of the titles ascribed to Jesus rather than a personal name. It unveils his identity as “God with us.”


Sometimes, it is difficult to perceive God’s presence in our world. When we watch the news and see all the brokenness, it is hard to feel like God is with us. Yet, the amazing truth is that he is always present. He has promised never to leave or forsake us (Heb, 13:5). Christmas is a reminder that God keeps his promises. For this reason, it is a season of great joy, 


While we may not be able to find joy in our external circumstances, we can embrace the joy of knowing that God is with us no matter what we are facing. This Christmas, unwrap the greatest gift of all, the gift of God’s presence. Jesus is more than a baby in a manger; He is Emmanuel  - God with us!


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