Advent Day 23: Immanuel

All of this occurred to fulfill the Lord’s message through his prophet:

“Look! The virgin will conceive a child!

She will give birth to a son,

and they will call him Immanuel,

which means ‘God is with us.’ ” (Matthew 1:22–23 NLT)

In the first round of the 2003 NBA playoffs, at the third game between the Portland Trail Blazers and the Houston Mavericks, 13-year-old Natalie Gilbert stood in the middle of the basketball court to sing the national anthem. However, two lines into the song, she forgot the lyrics. When he noticed her floundering in front of the nearly 20,000 people attending the game, Maurice Cheeks, the head coach for the home team Trail Blazers, ran to her side, draped his arm over her shoulder, and began singing right alongside her. Soon, the entire stadium joined the pair. After Gilbert sang the last note, the coach gave her a quick hug, and she quietly thanked him as the crowded stadium applauded and cheered.

When considering the image of Immanuel as God with us, it is tempting, especially during the week prior to Christmas, to picture Jesus newly incarnate, resting in His mother’s arms or lying swaddled in the manger. There is certainly nothing wrong with this image: it shows that Jesus became one of us, a human; it teaches us about humility and servanthood; it illustrates God’s desire to come in a different kind of power than military might or earthly authority.

What is missing from this image of Immanuel is God with us rather than simply God among us. Natalie Gilbert was surrounded by thousands of people that night in Portland, but it wasn’t until Maurice Cheeks came up next to her and supported her through the anthem that she had anybody with her. Jesus was only among us for thirty-three years two millennia ago, but He continues to be with us through every moment of our existence.

As you go about your day and your week, pay close attention to the moments you sense God with you. Further, what are some ways can you be with the people in your life, those you interact with, rather than simply be among them?