Emmanuel – God Still With Us

So we’ve come through Christmas and celebrated the Christ-child, “Emmanuel, God with us” - an event that we believe has changed history forever, providing a hope that God’s love was and is realized tangibly in this world. It’s very easy, however, more in step with the lull of post-holiday life, to limit our reflection of the God-with-us moment to just that: a reflection. And so come the week after Christmas and heading into the New Year, our meaningful reflection can easily become but a vague memory amidst our return to normal life. I find myself exiting the Christmas season feeling kind of lost or disappointed. I know something really good has occurred, often represented in valuable time with family and friends, but that experience - that feeling - it disappears. I guess you could say my Christmas spirit departs pretty quickly – Emmanuel easily becomes “God was with us” limited to an experience of holiday sentimentality.

This movement away from celebration - this post-Christmas lull - makes one wonder just how meaningful our “God with us” proclamations are? If God did in fact come 2000 years ago in the person of Jesus, does that make any difference in January? Does that make any difference throughout the year? Does that make any difference when around the world “God with us” leads to more questions than answers? Or perhaps when life’s circumstances may suggest the contrary, “God not with us.” So we proclaim “God with us” on December 25th, but what about the rest of year? Quite simply, now what?

For Advent, our church journeyed through Galatians 4:4-5:

But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship.

Through this passage we found that time – our lives in history – is given significance by our Creator as he entered the world by his Son, both divine and human. And this entrance into creation brings reconciliation and a new identity for humanity – we are God’s children! At Christmas we tend to focus on the finality of the incarnation and the ultimate redemption that Jesus brings to this world – a declaration that in Christ all sin and brokenness is overcome. Through this final redemption we can accept our new identity as children of God. But continuing in Galatians 4, we see that the incarnation has an ongoing effect through the presence of the Spirit – “God still with us.”

Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, "Abba, Father." So you are no longer slaves, but God's children; and since you are his children, he has made you also heirs.

In preaching from this text on Sunday I proposed that “Emmanuel, God with us” is not a seasonal proclamation. Rather, Jesus Christ, Emmanuel, journeys with us in our lives by the ongoing presence of his Spirit – God still with us.

The presence of the Spirit is the ongoing confirmation of our identity as God’s children, an experience of God that participates in the Triune intimacy of Father, Son, and Spirit, illustrated in the phrase, “Abba, Father.” And as heirs, we live in the inheritance of God’s presence with us – a life transformed by the presence of the Spirit.

So as we enter the post-holiday season and embark on 2010, may our Christmas celebration of God entering this world be an ongoing recognition that through the Spirit our lives testify, “Emmanuel, God still with us.”

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