Christmas seems so near once Thanksgiving passes. Stores and malls have already decorated for the season. Families are hanging lights on their homes and decorating trees in their living rooms. Some families are setting out their nativity sets and propping up a stable scene in their front yard (I do that). Without a doubt, Christmas is near.
For me, “near” is one of Christmas’ keywords. At Christmastime, Christians celebrate the arrival of Jesus, the Christ child, the Savior of the World. One of His names is “Emmanuel,” which means “God with us.” Jesus’ arrival confirmed that God was near.
He still is. God’s presence lies at the foundation of faith in both the Old and New Testaments. It retains that foundational position today. Christmas celebrates one of the reasons every believer can trust God. And, His nearness is neither new or nor unusual.
In Isaiah 41:10,13, God says to the people of Israel, “Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand. ... For I am the LORD your God, who upholds your right hand, who says to you, ‘Do not fear, I will help you.’” God’s presence dispelled fear, quieted anxiety and chased away inadequacy. Like a Father holds a child’s hand, God helped his children.
He still does today.
God said such words to Isaac and extended them. God told him, “I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you” (Genesis 28:15). God told the prophet Jeremiah the same thing. There, God used His presence to assure Jeremiah of deliverance. “I am with you to deliver you,” the Lord repeated to Him twice in succession (Jeremiah 1:8,19). Later, God reassured Jeremiah with those words several more times. God also said those words to Zerubbabel, Jesus’ followers and the apostle Paul.
In Christmas, He still says those words, today.
In the same vein, Moses proclaimed to God’s people, “the LORD your God is the one who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:6). Just verses later, He turned to Joshua and became more specific. He said, “The LORD is the one who goes ahead of you; He will be with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed” (31:8). After Moses died, in those moments of loneliness amid the burden of leading God’s people, God spoke a reminder directly to Joshua. The Lord personally said, “Just as I have been with Moses, I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you” (Joshua 1:5).
Many other passages echo God’s presence and faithfulness. That presence endures, but human beings need reminders. They forget. So, God personally reminds them. Jesus’ arrival reminded God’s people in the New Testament. And, each Christmas, revisiting Emmanuel’s arrival brings another fresh reminder.
God’s presence is powerful. It is extraordinary. The New Testament says that God can do “exceedingly abundantly beyond all that we ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20). His limitless power exhausts even the wildest imagination of His might. And, His strength visits His people in His presence.
Before leaving earth, Jesus, Emmanuel, “God with Us,” said one more time, “lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). He meant the same thing God meant every time He said the same thing. God truly is present. His presence helps. It calms and protects. It encourages. It reassures. It emboldens believers. But, it does not burn out, slow down, set, end or expire.
At Christmas, God reminds Christians that He is with them now. Though the season celebrates a momentous historical event, it also proclaims that God is always present. So, during this Christmas season, ponder His presence. Pause for a moment. Sit somewhere with a seat open beside you. Be still. And, realize that God is as near to you as the seat beside you, always. He never - ever - leaves you. He never forsakes you.
That is more than a celebration. It is a fact, a reality that matters. Emmanuel is ‘God with Us’... still.