Christmas, for many, is the happiest time of the year. But, for some people, it can be one of the hardest times of the year.
Maybe it is because they have false expectations. Or maybe it reminds them of a loved one who has died, or a divorce or separation they have been through. Whatever the reason, Christmas is the most dreaded time of the year.
But what is the essential message of Christmas? It is that Immanuel has come to us. “Immanuel” means “God is with us.” We read in Matthew 1:23, ” ‘Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,’ which is translated, ‘God with us’ ” (NKJV).
Christmas is all about undoing loneliness. The message of Christmas is that you are not alone.
Jesus knew what it was to be lonely. He was probably the loneliest man who ever lived.
Yes, He always had throngs of people around Him, but on that final day, those multitudes were gone. Even His own hand-picked disciples deserted Him. And as He hung on the cross, even God the Father momentarily turned away, Jesus cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken Me?”
Jesus knows what it is like to be lonely. But He also says to us, “I am with you. I will never leave you or forsake you.” That is the promise to the child of God: you are never alone.
And that is really the essence of the Christian life: God is with us. All other religions essentially say, “Do.” Do this, and maybe you will be more spiritual. . . . Do that, and maybe you will get closer to God.
But Christianity could be summed up in one word: Done. Why? Because God is with us. It is not us doing something through God; it is God living His life through us. It is Immanuel, God is with us.
Without question, one of the most remarkable teachings in the Bible is that Jesus Christ Himself will actually enter and live in the human heart that puts its trust in Him. He said, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him” (John 14:23 NKJV).
That is an amazing statement when you think about it. Jesus also said, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me” (Revelation 3:20).
It is difficult for us in the 21st century to understand the importance of having a meal together, because we are a fast-food culture. We eat on the go, and we are always in a rush.
But in the first century, dinner was the main event of the day. It went on for hours. It was a time to be with friends and family, a time to share the events of the day. It was very significant.
This is what Jesus is saying: “I want to come and have a meal with you. I want to relax with you, and I want you to relax with Me. I want you to bear your heart to Me.”
The message of Christmas is, “But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law. God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children. And because we are his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, ‘Abba, Father’ ” (Galatians 4:4–6 NLT).
Abba is the Hebrew equivalent for our contemporary word “Daddy” or “Papa.” The idea behind it is intimacy. This is why Christ came—that we might come into intimacy with God.
But do we want God with us, not just at Christmas, but all year long? We have a choice this Christmas: we can either have God with us, or we can be without God. There really are no other options.
If you put your trust in any human solution to save you, then you will be disillusioned. And even if you put your trust in religion, you only will be let down.
Our only hope is Jesus, Immanuel: God with us and God in us.