The boy stood looking at the writing on the angry man’s poster: GOD IS NOWHERE. When the man laid down his poster to step into the nearby café, the lad turned the poster over and wrote diligently. The man came back to his spot on the sidewalk and the boy said, “You had a mistake on your poster, but it fixed it. He picked up the poster to read what the boy had written: GOD IS NOW HERE.
That is the whole point of the Christmas story. The Bible shows us that God has continually drawn near to man. In the garden, He had close and personal fellowship with Adam and Eve, walking through the Garden with them in the cool of the evening. But sin broke that intimate fellowship, and a barrier was placed between God and man. God commanded the Israelites to make a Tabernacle that He might come and dwell among His people, and He did for hundreds of years until again, the sin of the nation of Israel became so great that God withdrew from the Temple. The Old Testament records many visitations of God to Abraham, Jacob, Daniel, and others who were devoted to Him. But these were brief occasions, to impart a message or empower His servant for a specific act. God desired a deeper communion with man. And God had a plan.
The angel recalled the prophecy: “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him called ‘Immanuel*’ which means ‘God with us’” (Matt 1:23). Jesus brought God near to us as a tiny baby in Bethlehem, as a man proclaiming the Good News, as the sacrifice on the cross for our sins, and as the risen Lord. Then He gave us His presence continually in His indwelling Holy Spirit. Immanuel is with us in storms and darkness and trial and suffering. He is with us in our times of doubt and fear and loneliness and emptiness. The joy of Immanuel is knowing that there is no place we can go and no circumstance of life we will face that God is as near as your whispered prayer. Jesus made Himself one of us that we might be with Him now and for eternity.
Beloved, I pray that the Joy of Immanuel is with you this Advent season.
* Some translations spell this word differently, the NIV uses Immanuel, the KJV uses Emmanuel – either way God is with us.