Prayer - "Immanuel"
Traditions. This time of year is fraught with traditions. In my house everyone looks forward to certain treats from the kitchen only made during Christmas. Our Christmas tree is selected at a tree farm, cut down, placed in the living room and dressed with the ornaments of years past. Decorations are placed outside and all around the house. Cards are sent. Gifts are purchased, wrapped and given to special people in our lives. Special meals are prepared, programs performed, Christmas ‘kettles' and toy shops, engaging in many charitable events to help others and the list is endless. Christmas is a wish for ‘peace on earth' but sometimes we fight to see it through the chaos we create.
We have read so many books on ‘how to make a memory' for our families that we can literally make ourselves crazy getting all the stuff done that we think contributes to the Christmas spirit.
Several years ago I began to notice I was going in so many different directions at Christmas that I was totally stretched to the limit. It happens very easily when involved with The Salvation Army this time of year. I thought this frantic pace could not have been what God had in mind for the event of His coming to earth.
The Lord implanted the idea in my mind to select a single word to bring me through the season. So, each year I ask Him for a word that would give me a singular focus - a word that would highlight itself throughout the process of Christmas. The word would be a road sign leading me in a fresh direction, approaching the most incredible universal miracle - Christ's relocation to earthbound flesh, coming as an infant.
My word for Christmas 2007 has been "Immanuel," or ‘God [is] with us.' And just like each year, that Christmas word has been popping up everywhere every single day - book titles, carols sung, sermon topics and Christmas card greetings. This word also directs my devotional thoughts and prayers.
Immanuel comes from the voice of the prophet Isaiah in 7:14. "The Lord Himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel." As prophecy fulfilled, it is then recounted in Matthew 1:23.
God has always wanted to be with us. The Garden was created for the purpose of being with us - walking with Adam. Moses was directed by God to erect a tabernacle - a place for God's dwelling - it was a portable tent so that the people had a sense of God's presence tabernacling with them as they traveled. Solomon's Temple, designed with God's instruction, became the house of prayer; a place to be with God.
Then God sent Jesus and could have named him many things but the first of His names was "Immanuel" because God is with us through His Son's physical presence. The meaning of Immanuel is consistent with His desire to be with us; His love drives Him to be with us. And then to top it off, Jesus while on earth gives us the image of ‘abiding' in Him (John 15:4) and as we abide in Him, He abides in us. He invites us to have Him dwell inside us. When Jesus resurrects and returns to heaven, He does not leave us alone but sends the Holy Spirit to be with us - to be Immanuel inside us.
So, how is God with you this Christmas, this moment as you read these words? He is with you in the chaos of the season. He is with you in the heartbreak of foregone Christmas' as loved ones have passed and you bask in the memories. He is with you in your helping of others, bringing joy to them and to you. And because Immanuel abides in the heart of the believer, God is with us as we proclaim Him in all the activity that Christmas celebrates.
As we pray and commune with God, we do enter His presence and we recognize God is with us. Immanuel was a manifestation of God's communion and a promise of His presence. What a priceless gift! Rejoice for God is with us.