Immanuel . . . God With Us

It happens every year. I start the season with a joyful heart and fresh determination to make this Christmas the one when my focus remains on God and His unspeakable gift of Jesus Christ. “Joy to the world, the Lord is come—let earth receive her king!” My spirit is refreshed, encouraged and invigorated by this refrain as I begin the preparations in remembering Christ’s birth.

Through jam-packed days of long lines in traffic and store check-outs, hours of baking and wrapping, writer’s cramp from addressing cards and jotting notes (I can’t just sign our name!), parties to luncheons to dinners to yet more parties, children’s activities and performances . . . soon my spirit is overwhelmed and disheartened. I end up standing at my kitchen sink muttering (dare I say it?), “I hate Christmas!”

I cringe as I hear myself say those words. And yet I know that I don’t hate the meaning and the eternal significance of the season, but what we have done to it in our fast-paced and materialistic society. Michael Card wrote this concerning his poignant song, “Immanuel”—

“We have ‘sentimentalized’ the birth of Jesus of Nazareth. When we think of the birth, we see wise men and shepherds and a star. But these are only minor characters in an exceedingly greater drama . . . the Incarnation. The birth of the Christ is so much more than a birthday to be observed once a year. Our focus must become the Incarnation, which we celebrate every minute of our lives. We must realize that the cry we hear drifting from the stables is the voice of One who spoke the universe into being. (John 1:3; I Cor. 8:6, Col. 1:16, Heb. 1:2). Oh, the staggering realization that the little One, wrapped in rags, looking up at us from the trough is in reality everything His special name reveals . . . ‘God with us’!”

That's the secret of the season—Christmas is not one day set aside which is more sacred than the other 364. We don’t need to chastise ourselves for failing to achieve a state of super-spirituality on the day we celebrate the birth of Christ. For the true believer, it is yet another day to live in order to honor and serve a present, sustaining God.

Christmas . . . Immanuel . . . God with us . . . every day of the year.