Making Space for God Immanuel: God with Us
Rev. Dr. Wilfredo Baez
Christmas Eve 2014 (2)
Immanuel, “Our God is with us, and if God is with us, who can stand against us. Our God is with us Immanuel.”
Here we are celebrating Xmas like it has been celebrated since the 4th Century, celebrating the birth Jesus. We celebrate the birth of Jesus because of what God did in Jesus, who Jesus is and what Jesus did. And these three things are summed up in one word, “Emmanuel.” The name “Emmanuel” means God with us. The name Jesus means “God saves.” God is with us to save us. What is God with us to save us from? God is with us to save us from a world of greed, violence and delusion. And God is with us to save us to a world of sharing, collaboration and awareness. God is with us to help us overcome darkness; to overcome alienation from God, ourselves and others and live in connection with God, ourselves and others. God is with us to help us live in love, peace and reconciliation with one another; to let go of hurtful pasts that promise a difficult future and provide the means of healing.
God is with us to show us just how capable we are of overcoming the wounds of the past and living free of the limitations of fear. God is with us to show us that we can be holier or whole and complete, free of guilt for not measuring up to our standard and learning to believe in a better future. God is with us to establish heaven on earth
Michael Card, who composed the song I sang earlier in the service, “Immanuel,” first heard the word “Immanuel” during a Christmas sermon shortly after he was married. He and his wife were fearful that their marriage would end in divorce like fifty percent of all marriages or just limp along like so many more. But the idea of “Immanuel,” “God with them” gave them hope. They were not alone. God was with them 24/7.
Immanuel, God is with us in the midst of danger and the drudgery of everyday life. Immanuel, God with us weeps with us and wipes dry every tear. Immanuel, God with us laughs with us and brings us great joy. Immanuel, God with us isn’t looking down from a safe distance. God is right with us and calls us to be accountable to our own most cherished values, even the ones we believe we cannot uphold. And God raises us out of the ordinary and mundane to extraordinary lives with purpose and drive.
Immanuel, God is present, as Christ, in your life and mine. We see God when we look into a baby’s face. Bits & pieces remind you yourself & family – what joy!
We experience God in the midst of an argument with spouses, children, parents and friends where a disturbing presence convicts us of failing to be to each other all we want be. What pain! And we experience God is in the midst of our daily routines – brushing teeth, eating, cleaning house, driving, working, rushing from one event and responsibility to another. If we are awake enough and pay attention.
Immanuel, God with us stops us in our tracks and makes us take notice. He lets us know he’s there, wanting know why we living way we are and wanting us to live like we really want to. Then we realize there no ordinary moments for Christians . . . for human beings. Every moment is a precious opportunity to grow that we may never get back.
Imagine being Jesus for moment. One moment he is at the side of God, the Father-Mother of us all; the next he is sleeping in a cattle trough. One moment he is hearing the praise of angels; the next he is suffering the taunts and threats of men. It is no small wonder Jesus prayed to his Father in Gethsemane, “Take away this cup of poison.” He just wanted go home.
It’s a story we don’t want to believe, the price of being Immanuel, God with us; living with us, suffering with us, dying for us, doing the right thing for all of our sake – what kind of God is this, sacrificing for us rather than we sacrificing to him! With a God like this who and what can stand against us! What great love! God is with us and with God everything is possible!
This is the promise of Immanuel, God with us: I will never leave you. I will never forget you. I will never forsake you. Immanuel, God with us is the promise of Christmas.