Christmastime isn’t always the most wonderful time of the year. Sometimes it’s equally hard as–or even harder than–the rest of the year. It can be difficult to get into the “Christmas spirit” when you have a broken spirit. But at the heart of Christmas lies this comforting truth: God is with us.
“O come, O come Emmanuel, / And ransom captive Israel, / That mourns in lowly exile here / Until the Son of God appear.” All of history led up to this point–the point when God sent a means of salvation for all humanity apart from ritual sacrifices. And the beauty of His provision is His decision to dwell among humanity. To become one of us. To be tempted as we are and to suffer as we do.
Because of God’s almighty power, He could have created any plan for salvation. He could have chosen to send Jesus right at the point of the sacrifice of His life. As a matter of fact, He didn’t have to send Jesus in the first place; the just nature of God would have been content to condemn all of humanity for our unrighteousness. Instead, He chose to execute justice by sending Jesus to live then die then live again on earth. The best part, for our generation, is the torn veil. Not only did previous generations have God with them in the flesh, but now we also have God in us through the Holy Spirit.
The beauty of the Christmas story is that God chose to live with us. But the comfort that applies to each day is that “He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you or forsake you'” (Hebrews 13:5). He is with us each day, especially on the hard days: “The Lord is near the brokenhearted; He saves those crushed in spirit (Psalm 34:18).
Similar to the Christmas story is the story of Lazarus’ resurrection; God could have chosen the quick and easy way to help. But He didn’t. When Jesus learned of His friend Lazarus’ death, He stayed where He was:
“Now Jesus loved Martha, her sister, and Lazarus. So when He heard that he was sick, He stayed two more days in the place where He was.” John 11:5-6
Kind of confusing–Jesus loved Lazarus and his family. So when he died, He kept about His own business? Not exactly. Again, He could have instantly healed and revived Lazarus’ life; He is God. But He didn’t. Instead, He waited until Lazarus was easily proven dead before He went to comfort his family. He went to be with them in their mourning. Yet He was also with them for their celebration of Lazarus’ resurrection. Jesus’ presence in that situation reveals that He cares personally for those who suffer.
Jesus was also present for the miracle. It is possible to experience miracles. (How many Christmas movies have something to do with a Christmas miracle? Thank you, Hallmark.) As Gabriel told Mary, “Nothing is impossible with God” (Luke 1:37). But whether you face suffering or miracles or mundane experiences this Christmas, you can find joy in Emmanuel–God is with us.