My preaching series this Advent season has centred around this pivotal verse from the Bible:
“Look! The virgin will conceive a child!
She will give birth to a son,
and they will call him Immanuel,
which means ‘God is with us.’”
(Matthew 1.23, NLT)
And as the season of Advent wraps up with our celebrations on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, we do well to be reminded that in the birth of Jesus, we know that God really is with us.
The question that remains is this: are we with God?
Often, in English parlance, when we say that someone is “with God”, that usually means the person is dead. You know, “Great Aunt Hortense is with God” is a spiritualized equivalent of the idiom, “She’s pushin’ up daisies.” She’s deceased. She ain’t comin’ down for breakfast.
But I’d like us to think of being “with God” in a different light.
We take great comfort in the belief that in Christ, God became human and really is with us. With the coming of the Holy Spirit, God lives in and through all followers of Jesus.
The challenge comes in our response: God is with us, but are we with him?
We can give nodding acceptance to the notion that God is with us in Christ. We like it; it’s like a warm blanket.
But if we do nothing about it, is it really all that comforting?
If we’re honest, most church-going people are quite content to think about this in a very universal way: “God with us” means “God with everybody”, which in turn means “Everybody’s going to heaven.” Trouble is, Scripture is pretty clear that this is not the case.
Yes, Jesus came for all. “God so loved the world,” said Jesus in the famous John 3.16.
But Jesus’ coming really only matters for those who respond: “…that everyone who believes in him will not die but have eternal life” – that’s how the famous verse concludes. Everyone who believes in him.
And those who believe in him do so in practical ways, starting with active faith: “If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved” (Romans 10.9-10, NLT).
God is with us in Jesus; that’s what Christmas is all about. It is through active faith that we are with God.
So when you attend Christmas services, come with faith. Come with your heart; that’s what Jesus really wants. He came so that we could be with God.
(If you’re looking for Christmas worship opportunities, you’re welcome at St. Paul’s Church, Nobleton on Christmas Eve at 7:00 p.m. and on Christmas Day at 10:00 a.m.
Merry Christmas! God is with us…let’s make sure, by faith, we are with God.