Well, Thanksgiving is over, and that means it's officially the Christmas season. Decorations are going up, and the Christmas music is playing. All that's left to do now is run through the gamut of events and activities leading up to that wonderful day when we celebrate our Savior's birth.
Christmas can create an interesting conundrum for believers because we spend so much time insisting that it isn't about presents and gifts, when in reality, it is. And that’s because Christmas is about the gift of a Savior, and the gift of God's presence with us. Matthew 1:23 puts it like this, "The virgin will conceive a child. She will give birth to a son, and He will be called Emmanuel - which means 'God is with us’.”
I think the first part of the gift, the Savior part, is easy for us to remember. It's the second part, the part about God being with us that we can easily lose sight of - not only as we prepare for Christmas, but as we live out life. Here's what I mean: the Christmas season can be an emotional time for us, and not always in a good way. Some of us experience feelings of life being out of control as we rush around trying to get things done. Others of us feel great loneliness and heartache - missing friends and family who are no longer with us. And some of us are reminded of the sin in our lives - sin that's maybe too hard to overcome, or that we feel is too great to forgive.
These holiday emotions are often magnified at Christmas, but the root of them may be felt at different times all year long. And in those moments of turmoil, I think deep down we’re actually wrestling to understand where God is in the midst of our difficulty. Where is He in the situations we’re suffering through? Where is He in the chaos of life?" And while we struggle to find the answer to what we think is a very complicated question, the reality is, the simple answer was given to us at the very first Christmas. He's right here. He's "Emmanuel" - God with us.
The Greek word for "with" that's used in the Mathew passage is "metah", and it means "accompanying like an instrument accompanies singing". So when we say that God's "with us" it's like saying He's playing the instruments on the soundtrack of our life. It might sound a little corny, but it's a wonderful image as we think of God being like music that underscores every aspect of our lives. His Spirit is flowing along with us, no matter where we go and no matter what happens. God's there - surrounding us, keeping us on track, and leading us forward in the right direction. He's there giving us the wisdom and the courage and the ability to live this life He's given us. What an a amazing gift for us to celebrate!
So let's do that. Let's ask God to help us set aside all the distractions of this holiday season and focus on the amazing gift He gave us on that first Christmas day. Let's be joyful because God is truly with us.