- Ballynahinch Congregational
Emmanuel - God with us
By Rev Victor Neill
‘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’ (Matthew 1 v 23)
Matthew rightly saw the connection between the birth of Jesus and what was prophesied by the prophet Isaiah over 700 years earlier ‘Therefore the Lord Himself shall give you a sign; behold a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call His name Emmanuel‘ (Isaiah 7 v 14).
The amazing news of that first Christmas is that God came in the person of His Son, Jesus Christ - ‘Emmanuel' to dwell on earth as a real human being. John puts it this way 'The Word (Jesus Christ) became flesh and dwelt among us‘ (John 1 v 14). The Carol puts it well 'veiled in flesh the Godhead see; hail incarnate Deity, pleased as man with man to dwell, Jesus, our Emmanuel'. Each of us can personally know that God is with them – if we are prepared to yield and surrender ourselves to the Lord Jesus and allow Him to forgive and change us, then it really will be ‘Emmanuel – God with us’. This is not religious hype or fable but a tremendous reality!
But what will it mean in practical terms as we live our daily lives? Does it just mean that ‘God is with us‘ when we attend Church? No! It means so much more than that – God is with us 24/7 – 365 days a year, essentially it means we can have Christmas 365 days of the year! ( parents do not be reaching for the tablets or signing yourself in - just yet!). Let me explain, if we have the reality of ‘Emmanuel – God with us’ in Christ, then the Christmas message is real for every day of the year - 'Emmanuel – God with us’. That means every day in whatever the circumstances ‘God with us’ even in the minor and mundane tasks of life (the daily grind as it is sometimes called). There are often tasks we are called to do in our employment or daily life that are not terribly exciting or motivational but let us remember ‘Emmanuel - God with us’ so we can do the task well with His help. Paul would agree with that attitude and action for he writes ‘Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus‘ (Col 3 v 17).
Whilst it is true that ‘Emmanuel – God with us’ in minor and mundane tasks, it is also wonderfully true in the major crisis of life, for it is still 'Emmanuel - God with us’. That was proven by Paul and Silas when they had been beaten and thrown into prison at Philippi, ‘And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God‘ ( Acts 16 v 25 ) because for them it really was 'Emmanuel - God with us!’. It was also true for Stephen when he had been stoned, he was able to pray ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit‘ and ‘Lord lay not this sin to their charge’ (Acts 7 v 59 &60). Truly another example of ‘Emmanuel – God with us’.
So, whatever lies before us, be it in a lowly place dealing with the minor and mundane issues of life, remember ‘Emmanuel – ‘God with us’. And in whatever major crisis we may yet have to face, for indeed we may as Psalmist have to go ‘through fire and water‘ ( Ps 66 v12 ). But it is still remains true ’Emmanuel – God with us’. And of course, that message was again confirmed by the Lord Jesus Himself, as He promised:
‘I am with you always, even unto the end of the world’ (Matthew 28 v 20)