Just this morning I heard about a tragic car accident involving a Texas A&M football player on his way home for the holidays. He swerved to avoid a buzzard in the road and ended up hitting an 18-wheeler head-on. My heart aches for his family, especially because of my own two college boys who drove home last week. Instead of planning Christmas celebrations, this family is now planning a funeral.
Last month a young friend of mine suffered a terrible loss. Her twin sister died suddenly from complications from a disease they shared. This will be my friend's first Christmas in 20-something years without her twin by her side.
Years ago when I was home from college our telephone rang very early on Christmas morning. A friend was calling to say her husband, John, had died after a long battle with cancer. I'll never forget the feeling of sorrow filled with inexplicable wonder that John was spending Christmas with Jesus! I'm sure that even all these years later his widow and son remember losing him on Christmas day.
It is that kind of world---a world where bad things happen even at a wonderful, joyous time of year---that needed Immanuel.
"The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel--which means, "God with us." Matthew 1:23
God with us.
I find that truly, truly amazing.
God loved us so much that He willingly came to dwell among us. He left the perfection of heaven, was born as a human infant, and lived a very normal, unremarkable life until the time came for him to be revealed as the Messiah. I imagine in those first 30 years of life Jesus the man experienced situations very much like those I've listed above. I imagine he lost people he cared about, including his father Joseph. He no doubt had people in his circle of friends and family who suffered from illness and died. Tragedy and sadness are part of life in a fallen world, even for Christ.
Yet Jesus was Immanuel. He knew that although bad things happen, there is hope. There is a promise of something better. He looked into the future and saw Revelation 21:3-4 come to pass:
"Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away."
You and I did not get to experience Immanuel when he lived on earth two thousand years ago, but we will someday soon!
Merry Christmas! May the joy and hope of Immanuel be yours!