The Nativity of Our Lord – Christmas Eve
December 24, 2019
St. John’s Lutheran Church—Chicago, IL
In the name of + Jesus.
Jesus is given a very special name in the weeks before He is born. The angel comes to Joseph and announces to him that his fiancée will have a child by the power of the Holy Spirit. He tells Joseph to name Him Jesus, “because He will save His people from their sins” (v 22). The name Jesus means, “The Lord saves,” and that is a special name, but there’s another name that He will receive. In fact, it had been given to him long ago by the prophet Isaiah.
All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel.” This is a very special name, but it’s not a name that Jesus used regularly, and it’s not really like a nick name that His friends and classmates came up with. Rather, this name says something more about who He is. Jesus means Savior, and Immanuel means God with us.
Now, you might argue that this is not a very special name. After all, God is everywhere, and that means that He’s with us right now, right? Well, not exactly. God is indeed everywhere (His glory fills the heavens and the earth, Scripture tells us), but that’s not necessarily good news.
If God is everywhere, that means that you can’t get away from Him. He sees you when you’re sleeping and He knows when you’re awake. But Santa Claus might only give you a lump of coal at the worst; God has the power to judge the living and the dead. If God is everywhere, He knows the things you don’t want Him to know.
But now something changes. Jesus is both God with us and God for us. He comes in the flesh to be with us in a new way. Not threatening. Not judging. Not spying. God is with us for our benefit.
He is with us as one of us. He experiences everything we experience—He needs to be fed, He needs to have His diaper changed, He needs the love of His mother and the strength of His father. He needs to go to school, to grow in wisdom and stature. He needs to work for a living.
He experiences both the joys and the sorrows of being human. Birthdays and funerals and festivals and tragedies. He knows the tender touch of a loving mother and the sting of His good friend’s death. Jesus wept.
He shares in our common physical and emotional experience, but He is also with us in so much more. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.
This is how He can be with us (His name is Immanuel) and save us (His name is Jesus).
But that was a long time ago. God was with Mary and Joseph and the shepherds and the wise men. He was with His disciples and He was even with His opponents. But He’s not here. We have to have a little acrylic statue of Jesus in a manger, or a statue of Him on the cross, or a colored window or a painting of what He may or may not have looked like.
The one who was born to be with us is now at God’s right hand in heaven. We can’t go with haste to Bethlehem and see the baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger. We can’t go to Galilee to hear Him preach a sermon or to eat a meal of multiplied bread and fish.
But that doesn’t mean He is not with us. In one of the first sentences of Matthew’s Gospel, we are told that Jesus will be called Immanuel, which means, God with us. And in the very last sentence we have a promise from Immanuel’s own lips: “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Mt 28:20). Matthew’s Gospel bookends with God being with us. In the beginning, He comes to be with us in the flesh at the first Christmas.
But Christmas doesn’t happen just one day a year. Every Divine Service is Christ’s mass. He is with us now and always, to the end of the age through baptism and teaching. Baptism puts His name on you; God is with you because you are baptized. And with baptism comes teaching—His Word. Where His name and His Word are, there He is. Not just in memory, but in flesh and blood. Given and shed for you.
“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” which means, God with us.
God Is with Us in Christ – Tonight and to the End of the Age
In the name of +Immanuel.
Jacob W Ehrhard
Graphics by Ian M. Welch. Copyright 2013 Ian M. Welch. All Rights Reserved. paramentics.com
If you benefited from this devotion and would like to support the ongoing ministry of St. John's Lutheran Church and School, click below to make a one-time or recurring contribution through our secure giving page.