My church newsletter pastor’s column for St. Peter Lutheran Church, Greene, Iowa, for December, 2016.
Emmanuel: God With Us
And the Word became flesh and lived among us.
– John 1:14
As we enter the month of December, it is hard to think of anything besides Christmas. For many of us, Christmas is about time with family, about presents under the tree, and childhood traditions. All of those are great, but at its core, Christmas is about this simple, profound story of God coming to live among us.
One of my favorite Christmas songs to listen to each year is the song Emmanuel. It’s by Michael W. Smith, and the only lyrics are the word “Emmanuel” repeated over and over, interspersed with a few other titles of Jesus.
The word “Emmanuel” means “God is with us,” and it’s found in Matthew 1:23, when an angel of the Lord comes to the virgin Mary and uses it to explain who her son Jesus will be. The child to be born will be God with us, fully God and fully human.
I like the word “Emmanuel” because this title for Jesus summarizes what’s unique about Christianity. As Christians, we worship God who has come to us, to be with us. Other religions might claim revelations or prophets from God, but Christianity is unique in claiming that God has personally come to live with us.
The church word for this claim is “incarnation.” I like that word, because it makes me think of flesh, of meat (in Spanish, the word for meat is “carne”). In the incarnation, God gets flesh. God comes and experiences all of human life, up to and including even death.
Sometimes we think God doesn’t understand what we’re going through, but the reality of incarnation says the opposite. Our Creator didn’t just put us here and leave us. God isn’t merely “up there” somewhere, majestically looking down at us. In Jesus, God has come to be with us. God understands everything we struggle with. God understands all of our joys and our sufferings because Jesus suffered too, and he did so for our sake.
Another great Christmas song, O Come, O Come, Emmanuel speaks of the longing we have as people for God to come be with us. The chorus calls us to rejoice, for God is coming. God is dwelling with us.
Each Wednesday in Advent (Nov. 30, Dec. 7, 14, 21), we’ll be looking at other “Songs of the Season” as we prepare to celebrate Christ’s coming. I hope you can join us for a soup supper at 5:15 followed by worship at 6:15 to explore this miracle of God living among us.
As you prepare to celebrate this Christmas, remember the miracle you’re celebrating. Out of love for us, the eternal Creator of the world has chosen to become flesh and live with us. What an amazing Christmas gift!
Pastor Daniel Flucke