The Post-Christmas Emmanuel
One Sunday, in advent, in a preparation for worship, Matt Buccheri pointed out something I had never noticed. The book of Matthew, one of the four Gospels, is both begun and ended with the promise of “Emmanuel, God with us.” In Matthew 1:23 we are told that the prophecy of the coming of Christ will be fulfilled in the birth of Jesus,…“and they will call him Emmanuel—which means, ‘God with us.’”
Then at the end of Matthew, when Jesus is returning to reign in heaven, he promises his disciples in chapter 28, verse 20, the very last words of the book, “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
While we are just past the season of singing and celebrating the incarnation of God in the coming of Jesus—“Emmanuel, God with us”—we should take time to remember that there is no seasonal time limit on both the joy and the weight of Jesus always being with us, to the end of the age. Joy, because we are not left on our own, to muddle through (or not) with only a vague awareness of God’s presence. Weight, as in a sense of responsibility, because God’s presence is not only a comfort, but also a challenge to live in the new age that has begun.
Here’s an old technique to help you squeeze the meaning out of a verse of scripture. Take the phrase “God with us” and give yourself 10 minutes to write down everything that follows from each of the words in that phrase.
For instance: GOD. It is the maker of the universe, the transcendent, glorious, holy, perfect, wise, omnipotent, Yahweh, our covenantal saviour, who is with us. And this superlative, loving, holy being is WITH us: not far off, not uninterested, not attending to the machinery of running the cosmos, but WITH us, every day, every moment, every heartache and every need intimately known to him. Amazingly, this God who is with us, is with US: sinful, easily distracted, self-absorbed, selfish US.
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