Behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, "Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins." All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: "Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel" (which means, God with us). (Matthew 1:20-23)
“God with us.” God is with us. We’ve all read this verse or heard this verse almost every Christmas for most of our lives. But have you ever stopped, taken a step back, and considered what this actually means?
Hidden somewhere in the shadowy corners of your mind, there is an accusation about God that’s just waiting for life to get hard so that it can rear its ugly head. It’s lying in wait, ready to pounce with the ancient arrow that confirms what the enemy wants us to believe about God: “See... He doesn’t care about you. He’s just a distant, cold, and unfeeling God who could care less about your petty problems or your ordinary life.”
But the Incarnation, in all its wonder, stands in front of that fiery arrow like a shield over our hearts and that ridiculous lie disintegrates into ash before the glory of His Face. With every breath the God-Man drew into His lungs and every word spoken from His sinless lips, Jesus unveiled the true emotions and nearness of God. In the light of His countenance, we find that God is far from stoic and unfeeling. The very fact that God, the Son, shed His garments of light and majesty (Ps 93:1; Ps 104:1-2) and clothed Himself in the dust of the earth (Gen 2:7) and swaddling cloths (Lk 2:12) proves that He is anything but distant. God came so far to draw so near to us, to reveal the fullness of His goodness to all who have eyes to see, and to invite us into His Kingdom that knows no end so we can be with Him forever (Jn 17:24).
There is nothing that unlocks the human soul and leads to wholehearted worship, affection, and obedience like meditating on Emmanuel, God with us. It’s absolutely insane that Jesus left His throne, where He was worshipped day and night (Isa 6:1-3), and became flesh and dwelt among us (Jn 1:14). But our faith is founded upon such insanity as this. When I first took hold of the wonder to be found in beholding the Word Made Flesh, one of the ways the Lord really knocked me off my feet was in the silent years of Jesus’ life – the thirty years and in between moments of His life that we know almost nothing about.
Once Jesus entered the womb of Mary, He was fully God and fully Man at that moment, and He will never stop being both God and Man for all of eternity. We forget that sometimes. We think of Jesus as God, the Son, during the few years of His earthly ministry and kind of stop there. But if there was ever a nanosecond that Jesus ceased to be the fullness of God dwelling in the fullness of a human frame, then all of our faith is in vain, and we, like Paul said, are among all of humanity, the most to be pitied. So we mustn’t leave the divinity and humanity of Jesus Christ at the shores of His earthly ministry… we must meet Him as fully God and fully man from the moment Gabriel appeared to Mary and she somehow contained the Infant God in her womb and follow Him all the way into eternity where He lives to make intercession for us and is planning His return that He might reign forevermore.
Come we to welcome Emmanuel
King who came with no crown or throne
Helpless He lay, the Invincible
Maker of Mary, now Mary’s son
O what wisdom to save us all
Shepherds, sages, before Him fall
Grace and majesty, what humility
Come on bended knee, adore Him
Jesus was God as a little peanut sized infant growing in Mary’s womb from the moment the Holy Spirit overshadowed her in the tiny town of Nazareth. God lived and grew in the womb of a woman. Think about that next time you wonder how exactly God feels about abortion and unborn babies. Jesus was the image of the invisible God (Col 1:15) when Joseph and Mary taught Him His first words. And Jesus was the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His nature (Heb 1:3) when His parents helped Him to take His first steps on the earth that He Himself created, with legs that came from His own imagination, and subject to the laws of gravity that He set in place at the foundations of the world.
Joseph taught Jesus the Scriptures that He helped to inspire, and told Jesus the story of how He created the earth (Jn 1:3). Do you think Jesus ever stopped Joseph and said, “actually, this is what really happened when I set the stars in their place”? Every year at Passover, Jesus sat and listened to the story of the Exodus, when He led Israel through the wilderness. Do you think He ever told His family as the Teenage-God that He was the true Bread of life that came down from heaven and that He Himself was the Passover Lamb?
There are hundreds of thousands of moments in the life of God in the flesh that we can only imagine. In one of my favorite verses in the whole Bible, John tells us, “there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written” (John 21:25). I cannot wait to read those books and even more than that, to hopefully hear those stories firsthand.
But the truly stunning part of that reality is that most of those moments – in fact, most of Jesus’ life here on the earth happened in the mundane. He did all the everyday, routine things we do. He ate breakfast, lunch, and dinner. He slept and needed to rest after a long journey. He laughed with His brothers and sisters. He played and worked and did His chores. The holy, infinite God of glory even needed a bath after a long week of work and play because dirt and sweat clung to His body just like it does to ours, as crazy as that sounds.
God in the flesh did all the ordinary things we do; even the things that we sometimes despise and wish we didn’t have to do. The only thing Jesus didn’t do was sin. He never sinned – not even once, not as a two-year-old or a teenager. He never sinned with His lips, He never sinned with His body, and He never sinned with His mind or emotions. We could probably talk about that crazy revelation for a few thousand years. But my bigger point is that tomorrow when you get up in the morning, eat cereal, take a shower, drive to work, sit at that desk for eight hours (or stay home and take care of the kids for twelve hours), go home, eat dinner, and go to sleep knowing you’re going to do it all over again tomorrow... on those days when life just feels hard and mundane and even futile… right there, in that very moment, God is with you.
Jesus lived a thousand mundane, everyday moments… just like us… only He was, and is, and will always be God. God literally walked in your shoes. So the next time your mind is assailed with fiery accusations that God is mostly withdrawn and indifferent, return to Jesus Christ, and behold God walking around in the very same flesh as yours (only without sin) and living a life that’s closer to yours that you might have ever considered.
God is with you. He is not far off. He is not distant and cold. God is with you when it hurts. God is with you in the ordinary. God is with you in the joy. So sing the song of Emmanuel and sing it loud. Sing it until your heart believes that He will never leave or forsake you and that truly nothing can separate you from the love of Christ – not tribulation, nor distress, nor persecution, nor famine, nor nakedness, nor peril, nor sword, not even the mundane. Nothing can separate you from the God who came so far to draw so near. Sing for the Light overwhelms the dark. Sing for His glory is shining for all who have eyes to see. Hope is alive. Love has come to us. Lift your voices and now proclaim; let the gospel ring. Come on bended knee and adore the God who is with us forevermore. Sing the song of Emmanuel.