I don’t believe that we really know the exact day of the birth of Jesus Christ. Religious traditions have put it on December 25th. It is very doubtful He was actually born on that day. Here is the most important fact: He was born! We know there are negatives to this season, but I personally enjoy so much about this time of year. One of the things I enjoy the most is to ponder the rich, theological truths that are brought back to the forefront of my mind through Christmas carols, hymns sung at church, and Scriptures that are read. The birth of Christ is something worthy to be celebrated and rejoiced in, both in December and throughout the year. But, we rejoice in it, not just because a touching story of the birth of a child to poor parents occurred many years ago. Many births have occurred that way, and certainly each one is to be celebrated. But this one was much, much more significant.
In the narrative of Jesus’ birth, Matthew writes that prophecy was being fulfilled. He cited the prediction from Isaiah 7 to further explain the significance of the child Mary would give birth to, “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 1:23). It doesn’t seem that Mary’s child actually answered to the name Emmanuel, but was officially named Jesus as verse 21 indicates. But this name Emmanuel was given to tell us something further about him. The verse tells us that the name means “God with us”. When John the Baptist was born shortly before Jesus, there was also great joy. John’s birth was rightly recognized as a great blessing of God. But, John was not called Emmanuel. God had blessed John’s parents in giving this unusual birth, but John was not “God with us”. Every birth of a human being into this world is a blessing of the God who gives life. But, only one birth in all the history of the world means Emmanuel, and this was the birth of Jesus! This communicates the essential truth that was Jesus Christ is God. He is man, yes. He is fully human, yes. But, His humanity had a beginning. For all eternity, He has existed as God the Son. Thus, He is all-powerful, all-wise, sovereign and worthy of all worship and praise.
God with us. Precious words. In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve knew what it was to be with God, in some sense. But, when they fell into sin, they were banned from the Garden. “Go away! You may not come here to this place because of your sin” was the sentiment. Sin had changed everything. Every human being born into the world since that time has been born estranged from God. Our sinful natures lead us to run away from God, to rebel against His commands and to pursue other things as our gods. The history of the human race has told the story of the fruits of this way of life: bloody wars; human trafficking; broken families; government corruption and oppression; deadly diseases; selfishness, greed, envy, immorality, exploitation and idolatry. The list could go on and on. These things are so opposed and different from the holy and good nature of God. He is light and in Him is no darkness at all! (I John 1:5). In view of this stark contrast, Emmanuel seems far-fetched. Surely, God would not bother with coming to this mess.
But, it was not far-fetched to God! In His indescribable grace and love, God chose to glorify Himself by consdescension and sacrifice of His Son. God the Son humbled Himself in coming to dwell among sinful men. In love, the Father sent the Son to bring salvation, life eternal, and the forgiveness of sins to unworthy sinners. Why Emmanuel? So, that Jesus would save His people from their sins (Matthew 1:21). He came not to make salvation a possibility or to give human beings a chance at salvation, as is often taught. Rather, He came to make redemption secure for all that the Father gave to Him (John 17:2). He came to take sinners who were far from God and bring them close and near to Himself.
What’s more, He still is Emmanuel. Though He has been crucified, raised from the dead and is ascended back to glory, He dwells within the souls of His people by His Spirit. “I am with you alway” Jesus said (Matt. 28:20). Paul prayed for the Ephesian believers, “That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith…” (Eph. 3:17). The great promise of Hebrews 13:5 is “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” This is the strength of the believer. This is the comfort of the believer. This is what has saved many a believer from despair. Sinful man could not go to God. But, God came to sinful man! He came to save and dwell within believers all through life. One day in glory, we will dwell with Him in a closer, more intimate and glorious way than ever before.
Friend, no matter what you may have heard, there is only one way to heaven. There is only one way that sins are forgiven. There is only one happy and blissful eternity. That is through Emmanuel, Jesus Christ, God with us. Turn today from your sin, and believe upon Him. Abandon a sinful, self-pleasing way of life, and take refuge in His salvation. Leave off your frustrated efforts to pay of your sin debt, and rest in His finished work. May we all sing with joy the words of the famous hymn, “Veiled in flesh the Godhead see; Hail the Incarnate Deity. Pleased as men with men to appear, Jesus, our Immanuel’s here.”