Merry Christmas! 2014 by Jeff Henderson

“Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us.’” Matthew 1:23

I pray this Christmas season finds you well and profoundly aware of God’s deep and abiding love for you. You are His beloved!

Two thousand years ago a baby was born in a stable to a peasant couple. That stable (maybe a cave) was in a small town that was located in a broken and defeated nation that struggled with a deep sense of low self esteem, depression, and little hope that they could ever be restored to the glorious days of old. At the birth of that baby, everything changed. That’s not hyperbole. EVERYTHING CHANGED.

The timeless message we celebrate each Christmas is embedded in one of the many titles given to Jesus: Immanuel, meaning “God with us.”

GOD. WITH. US.

Let that sink in.

The real story of Christmas is not so much about eight pound, six ounce, newborn baby Jesus (sorry Ricky Bobby) as it is about the extraordinary earth-shattering, life-changing, broken hearted-healing, captive-freeing, hope-giving, peace-making, sin-breaking, dead-raising eternal good news that GOD IS WITH US!

– He was with us to do for us what we could never do for ourselves. Jesus took on flesh and bore our sin. That’s really good news.
– He is with us today. On our best days. He’s there. On our worst? Yup, He’s with us.
– He will be with us eternally. No joke.

What amazes me even more is the fact that He was with us to experience everything we could ever encounter in our lives. All the peaks and valleys (read Psalm 23). All the joy and dysfunction of family. All the emotions. All the temptation. EVERYTHING. And then he redeemed it all. ALL OF IT (you can read about it in Colossians 1:15-20, my favorite Christmas passage, if you don’t believe me).

I don’t know about you but I really love what that means for me. It means that I don’t have to be subject to my negative thoughts or feelings when they come for a visit. I don’t have to languish in my regret over “what if” and “if only.” I can overcome my present day struggles with temptation and sin. I can trust Immanuel in the face of a thousand unknown tomorrow’s. And, as I get better at receiving the gift of His presence I become more and more free to embrace and celebrate the Truth that is the real meaning of Christmas. God with us.

My prayer for us this Christmas is embedded in the classic hymn:

O holy Child of Bethlehem
Descend to us, we pray
Cast out our sin and enter in
Be born to us today
We hear the Christmas angels
The great glad tidings tell
O come to us, abide with us
Our Lord Emmanuel

Christmas is here. That baby in Bethlehem? That’s God with us.

Grace and peace,
Jeff