by Archbishop Geoff Smith
One of my favourite parts of the Christmas story is the linking of Jesus with the prediction of the prophet Isaiah and the description of Jesus as ‘Emmanuel’ which Matthew 1.23 helpfully tells us means “God is with us”. I have always found the idea of Jesus being ‘God with us’ very positive. The birth of Jesus, the coming of God among us is a powerful expression of God’s love for all people and the whole of creation. God hasn’t forgotten the world although it looks like the world regularly forgets God. God hasn’t ignored the world even though it seems like the world often ignores God. God isn’t far far away with little actual interest in our very small planet and all of us as we try our best to live our life. God is with us in Jesus, knowing our life, living our joy and pain. We are not abandoned or forgotten, God is with us.
There is another aspect to this statement in that not only is God with us but God is with us In other words God is for us. The great news about Christmas is that only in Jesus is God with us, that is, present with us, the opposite of being away from us or abandoning us, but God is with us, in other words for us, on our side, interested in our good, acting positively for us. We see God being with us in Jesus ministry culminating in his death and resurrection. Jesus is with us and on the cross made possible our reconciliation with God.
Both aspects of ‘God with us’ are immensely positive. The question is how do we make this real in our life? The answer is found in something we are very familiar with at Christmas. Each Christmas many of us give and receive gifts. We know what to do with a gift-we accept it, we are thankful for it and we make whatever us of it we can (depending on the gift). In a similar way we can accept that God is with us (in both senses) we can be thankful that’s the case and let that reality shape our thinking, our attitudes and our actions. We can live each day with “God is with us’.
Christmas can be a very mixed time of the year. It can be a time of great fun and celebration with family and friends but Christmas can be a time of loneliness, sadness, and isolation. May this Christmas be a time when we are very conscious that no matter what our circumstance God is with us in Jesus and may the gift of Jesus bring us joy, hope and purpose.