The Gift of God’s Presence

Written by: Angela O'Neill
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The Christmas season is full of hustle and bustle, with this certain supercharged feeling in the air. We know the holidays are upon us when decorations start popping up all around, scented candles appear around the house, invitations arrive for parties filled with sparkles and smiles, homes have lights lining the trim, songs on the radio or Spotify have a lot more sleigh bells, and sales are sought as presents begin to pile up below the tree.

We can feel the presence of Christmas. We can see it all around the world.

But amidst the rising excitement (and anxiety), there is another Presence that deserves our attention, one that came into the world in a whole new way. On what was probably a not-so-silent night, a young girl, a carpenter, and some barn animals welcomed the greatest present of all: God coming to earth as Jesus, Immanuel, God with us, the newborn baby king.

His birth was foretold in prophecy hundreds of years earlier:

For a child will be born for us,
a son will be given to us,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
He will be named
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. 

Isaiah 9:6 CSB

Given those words, you would think that the world would have been waiting on edge for the arrival of the Messiah—that they’d have been looking for the signs. Instead, when Jesus arrived, few took notice. Most went on with their day amongst the hustle and bustle of that time.

Yet, whether they missed him, feared him, or adored him that night, amongst the animals, the Savior of the world, Jesus—God with us—was born. Oh, what a beautiful, oh-so-holy night!

Stop and take this in. That first Christmas, Jesus did not come as a king on a throne or a mighty warrior on a horse. He came as a humble infant—God dependent on a teenage girl for food and shelter.

He would cry and sleep, endure first steps and first falls; he would grow to be a teenager and then an adult. He would feel and endure the same things we do: joy, pain, friendship, betrayal, excitement, and loss. He would even die—our sins nailing to him on a cross—so that we might live.

But that first Christmas, a young couple was there to welcome the Savior into their arms and be the first to observe Immanuel.

See, the virgin will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and they will name him Immanuel, which is translated “God is with us.”

Matthew 1:23 CSB

On that day, over two thousand years ago, he came to humanity in the form of a baby to be with us. He came to this earth because he loved us and would be the sacrifice for our sins. His birth was a miracle; his death was painful; his resurrection was powerful.

All of these moments point to his unconditional love for us!

And Immanuel is still with us today. That beautiful name—and the reality that it declares—did not disappear at Jesus’ death and resurrection. Jesus promised, “I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20b CSB).

The gift of Jesus’ presence is as real today as it was that first Christmas. He is with us! He wants a relationship with us! He loves us as we are and does not wait for us to come to him. God crossed all of heaven and earth, gave up everything, and even entered into death so we might experience the life of his presence and accept the free gift of his salvation.

He did not come for some—he came as Savior for all because he loves us with a love that is beyond our wildest imagination.

For God loved the world in this way: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.

John 3:16 CSB

That first Christmas, people responded to God’s embodied presence in many ways. Angels celebrated him, shepherds adored him, an innkeeper shut him out, a king feared him, the wise men were seeking him, and most didn’t notice him.

As we enter into this Advent season, I ask: How will we respond to the gift of Jesus’ presence this Christmas? What might it look like to sink into the reality of Jesus as Immanuel—God with us then, now, and forever?

“Oh come, let us adore him, Christ the Lord!”

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