Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us. Matthew 1:23 (King James Version)
As we passed the Fourth Sunday in Advent and head for Christmas Day, how many of us reflect upon the verse above? The verse was taken from Isaiah 7:14 which dealt with God and Israel’s hope during at time of uncertainty. The writer of Matthew-centuries later-took this verse and worked it into the story of Jesus as Israel’s hope by God dwelling with humanity on a personal level. I’m not going into the semantics and etymology of the verse’s use in the two different contexts-that’s a whole different post altogether.
However tonight, I want to deal with the words, “God with us.” What does it mean to have God with us? Those three little words have been used and abused over the centuries. They’ve been used as words of comfort and assurance for individuals going through a difficult time-especially an illness or death of a loved one. They’ve also been abused by empires and patriotic/religious jingoists who want to legitimize their aggression and push their “way” down the throats of others.
But what did Isaiah and the writer of Matthew mean when both said, “God with us?” What makes those three words so special this time of year? I believe that God has come to us on a personal (or intimate) level to deliver us from our sins. And what I mean by “sins” I’m not talking about drinking, smoking, screwing, or double-parking in Midtown Manhattan-no. I’m referring to the root Hebrew word for , “to miss.” From what I remember it refers to archery where one, “misses the mark.” I believe that when we sin we miss the mark, or the life, that God has for us.
God has come into the world. He/She was expressed fully in Jesus while he was here with us. Jesus was “God with us” by the very way he lived and loved. God has always been with us-even before Jesus came. It was just then, a rabbi infused with God came on the scene. One so special that the Gospel writers-including Matthew-pulled out all the theological stops when writing the Christmas story; using the Old Testament prophets to indicate Jesus’s special mission; and pulled from other contemporary beliefs for the virgin birth.
God is still with us today. Every time we follow Jesus’s teachings and way of life, we express God through us to a needy world. Like Jesus, when we heal the wounded, lift up the cast down, comfort the brokenhearted, liberate the oppressed, and minister to the under-served and marginalized, we remind our world that God is with us. We need to show our world-which is confronted with so much-that God is with us. Every day-not just Christmastime-we need to live as if God with us. We need to re-read the Gospel story as Jesus calling us to a higher life that makes the mark of his higher calling for us to live fully and love wastefully (thank you Bishop Spong), not just a gooey Nativity story.
“God with us”: words that were a future hope for a troubled people; however a reality for us today when we live them. Let us live with God with us every day of our lives.
Like Jesus did. Peace!