Emmanuel- God with Us

Christmas is over for another year, yet before we take down the decorations and cards let us reflect briefly once again on the Nativity scene. We can all picture it. It is so familiar to us, with Mary, Joseph, shepherds, angels, wise men, animals, and of course baby Jesus in the manger. We can learn something from all the characters; their faith, trust, obedience and worship. But let us focus on the central character- Jesus Himself, whose birth over 2,000 years ago is the reason we celebrate this season.

photo by Nick Fewings

For many people, Jesus as a baby is how they think of Him, not really seeing much beyond the Nativity story. But the glorious truth of the Christmas message is that Jesus is EmmanuelGod with us.

The Light of the World

The Light of the World by William Holman Hunt

The famous picture ‘The Light of the World’ by William Holman Hunt, depicts Jesus, not as a baby but as a man, standing at a door, holding a light, knocking, waiting for a response. He will not force His way in.

Jesus was God’s gift to us, the Light of the World, the fulfilment of prophecy, the Saviour, Messiah, Emmanuel, God with us. Through His life, death and resurrection He has made a way for us to be forgiven, reconciled with God and to have abundant, eternal life.

‘Behold I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door I will come in and eat with him and he with me. ‘ (Revelation 3:20 NIV)

A Life-changing Promise

This is such a wonderful promise! It is life-changing. If anyone responds to Jesus knocking on their heart’s door and welcomes Him in He will come in and have fellowship with them. To think that He loves us that much, uniquely, and when He resides in us He will make all things new. But there is a handle only on one side of the door. We have to actively open the door and receive Him.

In the picture there are weeds and brambles around the door. Probably inside also there is dust, dirt, mess and clutter, representing the sin, fears, confusion and lack of peace which have the upper hand in the lives of those who have not received Jesus. Many people feel that they have to get their mess sorted out and clean up their act before they can ask Jesus in, but He accepts us as we are. No one is worthy, yet from the moment we ask Him in, His presence is with us.  As we spend time with Him, talking and sharing with Him, feeding on His word, He works in us and changes us – it becomes a partnership rather than us striving alone to get everything right.

What a change He makes!

He brings grace, forgiveness from sin and an assurance of eternity with Him.

He gives a promise that He will always be with us, loves us unconditionally and He is a perfect Father.

He gives purpose to our lives – and courage to pursue that purpose.

He brings hope, even in the darkest times. Nicky Gumbel in a commentary in The Bible in One Year says, ‘As we have studied the entire Bible throughout the year, we have seen that we should not expect an easy life. The Bible is true to real life. Life involves many struggles, trials, tests, temptations, difficulties and battles. Yet, in Christ you can be an overcomer, through God’s love ‘.    I have some dear friends who have gone through and are currently going through struggles, challenges, traumas and disappointments of many kinds; loss, bereavement, unemployment, debilitating health issues, rejection, relationship breakdown and more, yet each one has testified to the transforming presence of Jesus in their lives, giving strength, comfort and hope.

Life involves many struggles, trials, tests, temptations, difficulties and battles. Yet, in Christ you can be an overcomer, through God’s love

Nicky Gumbel

He gives direction and encouragement when we are in a time of confusion and don’t know how to pray, whether for ourselves or someone else.

I recently watched a talk from Kris Vollaton of Bethel Church, sharing a word he had received from God about living by faith. He said that sometimes, those of us who have been Christians for many years can slip into discouragement over prayers which are apparently unanswered about people or situations which never seem to change. Sometimes to the extent that we have almost given up. The word was to keep going, keep asking, keep knocking, like the Parable of the persistent widow and the judge (Luke 18: 1-8). Keep believing, and He will give direction how to pray.  

 I have situations like that in my life and I know many others who do too.  I will briefly share one situation. Someone very dear to me is currently going through a time of difficulty following a big disappointment which has led to fear, lack of confidence and uncertainty about the future.  I have felt helpless, not knowing how to help or how to pray effectively. I brought the situation to the Lord and asked Him to show me how He saw it. He showed me a picture of Himself as the good shepherd, and I was walking beside Him. We were walking along a path in a valley. With one hand He was gently leading me and talking to me and with His other arm he was carrying a lamb, which I realised was my loved one.  Although the path was quite winding and hilly in places, I could see that there was a way out and we were walking towards it. This gave me a great sense of peace, hope and comfort to know that Jesus knew and cared and my loved one was safe in His arms.

Jesus is with us in the valley

Jesus Stepped into our World

What a Saviour we have! The Son of God came down to our world, our mess, brokenness, dirt, clutter and lived like one of us. Just as we do, He experienced pain, fear, disappointment, poverty, rejection and even death. Yet He reached out to us, seeking us out personally and rescuing us.

As we transition into another year I really sense that God wants us to take the opportunity to share His love and the reality of God With Us to those who do not know Him. In this age of secularism let us pray that the light of Christ will break into the hearts of many who need to be rescued and have never considered Him before except as perhaps a picture of a baby on a Christmas card. Let us ask the Lord to give us a fresh encounter with the risen Lord Jesus and to show us ways, however small, that we can show His love and bring His light into the lives of those around us.

Invite Him in today

Jesus truly is the Light of the World. He came to save us. If you have never opened the door of your heart and asked Jesus to come into your life, I invite you to do so now by praying a simple prayer. I trust that you will experience true joy and peace as you grow in your relationship with Him.

God is with us. Hallelujah!