This year I want to skip Advent and go straight to Christmas. Not the presents-and-turkey bit, but the Jesus bit. It seems to me that one good way of getting ready for the coming of Christ into the world is to spend a bit of time thinking about his birth, and what it means.
This morning we read Matthew 1:18-25, and I was struck again by this:
All this took place to fulfil what the Lord had said through the prophet: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel— which means, God with us.God with us. I'm sure Matthew is not just grabbing a convenient Bible quote to make his point, but telling us something deeply significant about the incarnation. God with us. How many people are convinced that God is with them? So many have concluded the opposite - that he isn't with us at all. And would God have any reason to want to be with us anyway?
It is what we want, though. We need somebody on our side. In life, we seek support from the people around us, and to find someone who we know is there for us whenever we need them is a precious thing. Without that (and often with it, too), life is a lonely and difficult journey. The Bible paints a picture of the human race as a creation that sets out on a journey without its creator, confident that it knows the way, but soon getting lost, and wandering through history lost and alone, with no aim and no hope. But into this picture steps Jesus, saying "God is with you".
In one of the prayers of the Church of England, we say to God, "you did not abandon us". That is the message of Mary's baby. God does not abandon his creation. He is never far away, and at Christmas he comes very near. Christ is born, and we need never be alone again.
Picture: Albin Egger-Lienz [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons