December 8, 2015
by Peter Amsterdam
Christmas represents one of the most significant events in human history—when God physically came into our world in the form of His Son, Jesus. In telling the story of God’s entrance into the world, Matthew’s Gospel says that the events leading up to Jesus’ birth 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).1
In the Old Testament we read of God’s presence among His people, His being “with us.” We see it in the story of the Garden of Eden, where God conversed with Adam in the cool of the day;2 in the pillar of cloud and of fire that led Moses and the children of Israel from Egypt to the Promised Land;3 in the Ark of the Covenant4 and the Holy of Holies.5 God also assured His people that He would be with them when they went into battle,6 as well as when they were fearful or facing great trial.7
Then in the New Testament God’s presence took on a whole new meaning in the incarnation, the physical embodiment of God in the birth of Jesus. His conception was like no other before or after. His mother, Mary, was a virgin, betrothed—but not yet married—to Joseph, a Jewish carpenter. Mary received a visit from an angel who announced that she would conceive and bear a son who will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.8
When she questioned how this could happen, since she was a virgin, the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God.”9 Nine months later, the unique person who was both God and man was born—Immanuel, “God with us.”
Some of the manifestations of “God with us” were seen through Jesus’ actions which reflected the attributes of God, such as:
- Compassion through healing those with leprosy,10 palsy (paralysis),11 blindness,12 epilepsy,13 fever,14 dropsy,15 deafness,16 and demonic oppression.17
- Overall care and provision for all of humanity and concern for the poor and hungry, manifested by feeding the crowds of 5,00018 and 4,000.19
- Power over nature as He walked on water and commanded the wind and storm to cease.20
- Power over death—raising the only son of a widow,21 a twelve-year-old girl,22 and His friend Lazarus from the dead.23
- Mercy by forgiving sins.24
- Love by His willingness to be hung on the cross to die so as to make it possible for us to enter an eternal relationship with God.25
Through His teachings, Jesus informed us of the character of God. This is seen in particular in the parables, which portray various aspects of God’s nature, such as:
- A loving and forgiving father in the story of “the father and the lost sons.”26
- A caring and faithful father in “the friend at midnight”27 and “the father’s good gifts.”28
- He who seeks and saves those who are lost in “the lost sheep”29 and “the lost coin.”30
- He who waits patiently for the right time for judgment in “the wheat and the weeds”31 and “the seed growing.”32
- He who judges righteously in “the rich fool,”33 “the unjust steward,”34 and “the rich man and Lazarus.”35
- The forgiver of sins in “the two debtors.”36
- He who loves and cares for those in need, no matter who they are, in “the good Samaritan.”37
- The one who consistently seeks for those in need of salvation in “the compassionate employer.”38
Jesus, “God with us,” showed us the lengths to which God would go in order to reconcile humanity to Himself—by ordaining that He Himself, in the form of God the Son, would take the punishment of the sins of humanity, so that we might live with Him forever.
A continuation of “God with us” is seen in that after His death and resurrection, Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to dwell in believers.
I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.39
Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you? … Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God?40
Because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”41
Christmas is the celebration of “God with us,” the birth of God’s incarnate Son, who lived and died in order to make it possible for us to come into relationship with God and for the Spirit of God to dwell within us. What a joyful reason to celebrate!
At Christmas, and every other day of the year, all of us within whom the Spirit of God dwells are in a sense an extension of “God with us” in our community—to our friends and neighbors, our coworkers, the people who serve us in shops and restaurants, and strangers whom the Lord brings across our paths. The love we show through our interactions with others, the words we speak and actions we take, the kindness and generosity we show, the helping hand we offer, reflect the Holy Spirit dwelling within us. Others can sense something uncommon and special in us, and when we explain that God is with us and can be with them as well, we help to fulfill the ultimate reason of Christmas.
This is a wonderful time of year to share the gospel with others, to let them know that God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.42 We are each called to do all we can to share the news of “God with us” with those who need Him.
1 Matthew 1:22–23. All scriptures are from the English Standard Version of the Bible.
2 Genesis 3:8.
3 Exodus 13:21–22.
4 Exodus 25:22.
5 Exodus 26:34. See also Exodus 40:34–38.
6 Deuteronomy 20:1, 31:6; Joshua 1:9.
7 Isaiah 41:10, 43:2.
8 Luke 1:31–33.
9 Luke 1:35.
10 Matthew 8:1–4; Mark 1:40–45; Luke 5:12–15, 17:12–14.
11 Mark 2:1–12.
12 Matthew 9:27–30, 20:30–34, 21:14; Mark 8:22–25, 10:46–52; Luke 18:35–43; John 9:1–7.
13 Matthew 17:15–18; Mark 9:25–27.
14 Matthew 8:14–15; Mark 1:30–31; John 4:46–53.
15 Luke 14:1–4.
16 Mark 7:32–37.
17 Matthew 12:22–23, 9:31–33; Luke 4:33–35, 8:27–35, 9:38–42.
18 Matthew 14:14–21; Mark 6:35–44; Luke 9:12–17; John 6:5–13.
19 Matthew 15:32–38; Mark 8:2–9.
20 Matthew 14:22–33; Mark 4:35–41, 6:45–51; Luke 8:22–25; John 6:16–21.
21 Luke 7:11–16.
22 Mark 5:22–23, 35–43.
23 John 11:1–44.
24 Matthew 9:2–8; Mark 2:1–12; Luke 5:18–26, 7:44–50.
25 Colossians 1:19–22, 2:13–14; Ephesians 2:13–19.
26 Luke 15:11–32.
27 Luke 11:5–8.
28 Luke 11:9–13; Matthew 7:9–11.
29 Matthew 18:12–13; Luke 15:4–7.
30 Luke 15:8–9.
31 Matthew 13:24–30.
32 Mark 4:26–29.
33 Luke 12:13–21.
34 Matthew 18:21–35.
35 Luke 16:19–31.
36 Luke 7:40–50.
37 Luke 10:25–37.
38 Matthew 20:1–16.
39 John 14:16–17.
40 1 Corinthians 3:16, 6:19.
41 Galatians 4:6.
42 John 3:16.