“Emmanuel” means “God with us”. In Jesus, God comes to find us. Our walk with him offers us as many challenges as we can take, and asks of us probably more than we are willing to give: “In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus”, says our passage from Philippians – there’s a steep hill to climb! But the challenges of discipleship are not a means by which we earn our salvation – that is already freely given. The coming to us of God in Jesus is free grace and unconditional love, with no strings attached. He is “with us”. He is on our side.
In the Christmas story we marvel again at how God in Jesus chose vulnerability; he put himself at our mercy just as we in turn depend on his mercy – he levelled the playing field in his Son.
Humanity does not come out of the story of the life of Jesus very creditably. Right from his infancy there was always somebody trying to kill him – not because he did anything wrong but because power, violence, and corruption do not like healing, truth, and simplicity. The innate authority that was in Jesus posed a threat to what Paul calls “the powers of this dark world and … the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12). But then that was the very reason Jesus came; because we needed to be redeemed. He saw us with the eyes of a shepherd; because we were lost, he would come to find us, and never give up searching until he could lift us up onto his shoulders and bring us home.
“Emmanuel” is one of the names of Jesus: “God with us”. In what ways do you feel that he is with us – and with you personally – today?
In our personal relationships, how do we create a balance between loving unconditionally and encouraging responsible behaviour?
What do you like best – and least! – about Christmas?
Thank you, Father, for sending Jesus. Thank you for his courage, his vulnerability, his tenderness, and his strength. Thank you for the full and free salvation he won for us. As the time draws near for us to remember again his birth at Bethlehem, we pray for all who are homeless, for refugees, and for those who are persecuted or afraid. And we pray for peace in the Middle East, peace for all humanity. May your kingdom come, and your will be done here on earth. We ask it for his love’s sake; Amen.