[Isaiah 7:14] “Therefore, the Lord Himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”
Immanuel: God with Us from Crib to Cross
Where is God in the ER? After the terrible car accident? Where is He in the tragedy? Where is God in the Hospice room, or in the memory care unit, where so many are not passing peacefully? Where is God in sickness – in the old – and in the middle-aged and young?
Where is God when wrongs are being done? Evils being committed – against the innocent? Where is God when Christmas isn’t a joy because you are grieving? Everyone else is rejoicing, as they do at this time of year, but your heart is keenly aware of your own loss or that of another. Where is God on that Christmas?
Where is God in poverty? Where is God in prosperity, where He is so often forgotten?
Where is God in a broken bond between husband and wife, between parent and child, or others? Where is God in a betrayal?
And where is God when you’ve shamefully been the betrayer? When you’ve been the one who has done harm? Where is God in guilt? When your sins, your wrongs, are up over your head?
Where is God? The Holy Gospel according to St. Matthew explains our verse from Isaiah 7:14 in simple words: All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: “Behold (Look), the virgin will conceive and bear a son, and they shall call His name Immanuel, which means ‘God-with-us’”.
‘God-with-us’. When Jesus was conceived and delivered, God was finally giving answer to man’s plea, “God, where are you?” In Jesus Christ, God is now ‘God-with-us’.
This is what Christmas is. The Son of God was born to become God who is with us. Jesus stood, flesh and blood, and said to His disciple Phillip, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” [John 14:8]. Jesus is born. He is God-with-us.
Jesus has experienced it all. God-with-us has been with us as a child in the womb, those nine months, and passed through the dangers of delivery – and was the object of His mother’s joy in birth.
The son of God truly and fully became man – only without sin – and experienced all the joys and pains of life – all the good desires and the disappointments of life – as a child, as a teenager, and as a grown man. As one who was young. And as the Ancient of Days.
Jesus suffered like us in every respect. He also experienced human joys. He also mourned and missed people. Jesus had human friendships. And Jesus was betrayed by a friend.
By His conception and birth, the Son of God became God-who-is-with-us because Man had become Man-who-is-away-from-God. Man was first created as Man who dwelled with God – Adam in the Garden where God walked in the cool of the Day.
By man’s fall into sin – his fall away from trust in and obedience to God – man became man-away-from-God. We are each conceived and born from a common human nature – a human nature that is away from God. So, we are born sinners and sinned-against. A life away from God, heading further away – death – and into worse darkness.
Jesus, the Son of God, by being conceived by the Holy Spirit and taking on flesh – that fallen human nature which we’re part of – by taking our fallen human nature onto Himself as His own nature, becoming man, He brought that human nature back to God because He brought it into Himself.
When the Son of God took on human nature from our fallen stock, He brought human nature that was away from God back to God. In Jesus, in the Son of God’s incarnation – His ‘becoming man’ – in that conception and birth, Man-away-from-God became once again Man-with-God, in Jesus. Just as God is now God-with-us.
All by Christmas morning. All by the conception and birth of the Son of God in our own human nature. He restored what of us was fallen by taking it on and making it His own.
And, yet, brothers and sisters, the Son of God did not become God-with-us – and did not make you Man-with-Him – in such a way that human suffering and sin and separation all just ceased all at once and you were immediately brought up into perfection. This is not how He has elected to be with us.
Instead, God is with us as God who has entered human suffering and sin. Jesus has suffered. Jesus has been betrayed. God-with-us has been shamefully abused and beaten. Spit upon. Whipped. Pierced with nails. Suffering human sin and evil. Punished though innocent.
And ‘God-with-us’ has even become ‘Sinner’ for the guilty. Not by His sin, but by ours. He is God-with-you, you guilty ones. He is God-with-Man that the sinner’s price may be paid in His own flesh.
Your sins which have gone up over your head have gone up over His. He died as the shameful sinner – God-in-your-place – to spare you. He is still ‘God-with-you’.
In this way, the innocent who suffer wrong – the sick who hurt in pain – and the joyful who had forgotten God – the grieving and lonely – the betrayed – and the betrayers – the one sinned against – and the sinner who has done wrong – because the Son-of-God has become God-with-them-all, all of these can now become Man-Woman-Child-with-God.
You are baptized into Jesus by your baptism in the font in His name. You are now Man-with-God. God is God-with-you. Your Jesus. Your Immanuel.
Thanks be to God that He has given His only Son to us as our Gift for Christmas. Wherever we are, whoever we are or have been, Jesus is born, and God is ‘God-who-is-with-us’. Amen.