Dr. Andrew D. Templeton
Matthew 1:23 says, “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel – which means, God with us.”
Upon my first visit to the city of Bethlehem, I experienced an emotional response that I did not anticipate. I was standing in the “grotto” of the Church of the Nativity as our group began to sing “Oh Come Let Us Adore Him.” As we were singing, the truth and reality of the incarnation hit me! The stories of the Gospel are true – God with us!
This concept has always been a belief that I have shared, but for some reason on that particular day in March 1999, I was transformed.
I read the following from a devotional called “The King is Coming” that summarized my reflection with great detail: “God with us. No matter where we go, God is with us. No matter how seemingly far we fall, God is with us. No matter how deep into despair we feel, God is with us. In times of great joy or times of insurmountable grief, God is with us. Why is He with us? Because He loves us. He loves us and there is nowhere else He wants to be than right at our side. There is no place too far or wide, too high or low that the love and grace of God cannot reach us.”
The message of hope and salvation is the message of Christ. Jesus was not a messenger sent by God to tell of His love, but rather He was God Himself with a message.
In life, there are days that are better than others. I have learned with difficulty at times that happiness and sadness are emotions based primarily on circumstance and situations. Unlike happiness and sadness, however, I have discovered that the joy within me is based on truth.
A couple of years ago, I saw a church that set up a beautiful nativity in their front lawn. They used lights to make it visible at night. On the roof of the church was a large steeple. The pastor connected a cross to the steeple at such an angle and with such lighting that the shadow from the cross rested on the baby Jesus in the manger. Theologically, this epitomized Christmas. While the nativity story is sweet and has given many great hymns and carols, the message is one of pain.
While it can be difficult to comprehend, Jesus was fully man. He suffered, bled and died on a cross. He paid a significant price for us to receive redemption. The end of the story is Easter Sunday! He resurrects into new life. The life, death, and resurrection of Christ paved the way for my salvation. The truth of the incarnation gives me great joy. I have joy knowing that He loves me, He died for me, He saved me, He redeemed me, He set me free, He healed me, and He has never left me. Shortly after the resurrection, we experience a new depth of Immanuel, God with us, as we receive His Spirit and He dwells within us. This is what Christmas is all about and why I have such great joy: Immanuel, God with us and dwelling within us.