Sunday, December 21, 2008

Our God is With Us

Photo taken from 'The Nativity Story' (IMDB.com)
Something took place over 2,000 years ago in a tiny Middle Eastern town that changed the course of human history. The biblical text tells us that the soon-to-be mother of a little child was told that the boy she was carrying was special. His name would be Jesus and He would be the Savior of all mankind.

There is a longing within the human heart for the Hebrew concept of Shalom, when peace reigns and all is right with the world. Our hearts ache for something different as we grapple with the heartbreak, pain and death that life brings our way. We wonder if we are alone is this world we feebly inhabit and we question if there is someone greater than us that sees and cares and will respond to our needs.

The birth of the baby Jesus answers this query. The angel that foretold his birth said that He would be known as Immanuel, which means "God with us." Previous to the birth of Christ, God's Spirit was present but in a much different way. With the coming of Christ (Advent), God took on human flesh (the incarnation) and came to live among us. He experienced what we experience and saw what we see. He experienced pain. He knew hunger and tiredness. He lived under an oppressive regime. He even went through a painful death. He endured the same kind of temptations and struggles that we do, but didn't sin. It's quite amazing once you stop and think about it.

The fact that "God is with us" means that there is hope. We do not walk through life alone. Even with a bad economy, the threat of terrorist attacks hanging over our heads and injustice seemingly reigning supreme, our God is among us. His Spirit is present and He lives within those that are His true followers. As I think about the uncertainty that tomorrow brings, I take comfort in the reality of Immanuel.

Here are the lyrics from one of my favorite modern Christmas songs, Our God is With Us from Steven Curtis Chapman's first Christmas album, The Music of Christmas. May they bring a sense of peace to your heart.
One of us is cryin’ as our hopes and dreams are led away in chains,
And we’re left all alone;
One of us is dyin’ as our love is slowly lowered in the grave,
Oh and we’re left all alone.
But for all of us who journey through the dark abyss of loneliness
There comes a great announcement - we are never alone
Forthe maker of each heart that breaks,
the giver of each breath we take
Has come to earth and given hope it’s birth.

Chorus
And our God is with us, Emmanuel.
He’s come to save us, Emmanuel.
And we will never face life alone
Now that God has made Himself known,
As Father and Friend, with us through the end, Emmanuel.

He spoke with prophets’ voices and showed Himself in a cloud of fire,
But no one had seen His face;
Until the One Most Holy revealed to us His perfect heart’s desire,
And left His rightful place;
And in one glorious moment, all eternity was shaken,
As God broke through the darkness that had kept us apart.
And with love that conquers loneliness,
and hope that fills all emptiness
He came to earth to show our worth.

(Chorus)

So rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel has come!
And our God is with us, Emmanuel.
He’s come to save us, Emmanuel.
And we will never face life alone
Now that God has made Himself known,
As Father and Friend, with us through the end, Emmanuel.
Our God is with us, Emmanuel!

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