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"Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel (which means God with us)"
- Matthew 1:23

In the midst of the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, it's easy to lose sight (at least temporarily) of what Christmas is really all about. One of the times we remember it is when the little ones in our lives start getting obsessed with the new toys they are certain they will find under the tree on Christmas morning. We grown-ups then feel compelled to ask them, "You know what Christmas is REALLY all about, right?" Sometimes the question is asked of kids even if they are not toy-crazy. I've long advised my young Sunday School students that if anyone ever asks them that question, instead of going into a long response about baby Jesus in a manger and shepherds and angels, they can answer it with three simple words: 'God with us.'

That's what Christmas is all about in a nutshell. 'God with us.' The shepherds, the angels, the inn, the stable, the manger, even Mary and Joseph are all just scenery compared to the incomprehensible wonder of 'God with us!' In Jesus, God came down to earth and became one of us. As the Apostle John wrote:

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God...And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us..."
- John 1:1,14
Our human minds can't comprehend the Trinity (God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, three persons comprising only one God). Among other things, John 1:1 reminds us that we're out of our league when it comes to understanding God. How could the Word possibly be WITH God and BE God at the same time? Yet to God it all makes perfect sense.

The more important point, though, is that this member of the Trinity known as the Word (Logos in the original Greek) took on human form and became one of us. The implications of that are what truly make Christianity unique among religions.

In most religious systems, rules are laid out which, if followed faithfully and zealously, will supposedly allow a person to work their way to acceptance by their god. In other words, the initiative lies with humanity to reach up toward deity. With Biblical Christianity, however, things are exactly opposite. In the Christian system it is God who takes the initiative in bringing we humans to Himself, by coming down to earth and becoming one of us.

Much can and has been said about this, but there is one aspect that many Christians never stop and think about, but which can enhance one's relationship with God greatly. It is simply this: as Christians we don't worship a God who is 'up there' somewhere, who is separated from His world and the experiences of it. Rather, our God has been here among us, and had experiences much like our own!

Some of you young people reading this hate some of the things you have to do in your lives. You may think that God couldn't possibly understand what you go through, so what's the point in praying to Him about it? But the truth is that God had to do His schoolwork! God had to do chores around the house! God had to get along with His siblings! He's been there, and knows exactly how you feel. You can pour your heart out to Him when things get rough, knowing He'll be able to understand. You can be confident that if you keep your heart open to Him, He'll give you the strength you need.

For you adults, maybe some of you don't like your job, and dread getting up every day to go to work. Well, Jesus didn't start His public ministry until he was 30. What was He doing before that? Working in His earthly father's carpenter shop. Day after day, year after year, from his teens all the way through his 20s, doing the same job. So God understands how you feel too, and is able to support you and guide you as cope with the stress of your job.

Now, some of you may be saying, "That's all well and good, but what about when I make a mistake? What about when I feel really bad about something that I've done and can't make up for it? How could Jesus, who never sinned, never made a mistake ever, understand THAT?" That's a good question, but the answer is simple. The issue is emotional pain, and while Jesus never experienced it from that particular cause, he was certainly no stranger to it. In fact, the prophet Isaiah said that when the Messiah came, he would be "a man of sorrows, and aquainted with grief." (Isaiah 53:3) Although Jesus came to be the Savior of all who believe in Him, He was first the promised Messiah to the people of Israel. Imagine His pain as He was eventually rejected by most of those who He had specifically come to. In truth, we CAN'T imagine what He felt as He stood on that balcony, looking out over a crowd of people who He loved far more than any human can comprehend, and seeing them screaming for His death, their faces filled with hate. Believe me, God understands emotional pain. No matter what has happened to you, He knows how you feel.

At this point I imagine some of you think you've found a flaw in what I'm saying - specifically, some of you parents. You're thinking, "Wait a minute, Walguy! Jesus never got married and had kids! He never had to deal with disobedient and ungrateful children like we do!" Of course, the answer to that is very obvious with just a little thought: God didn't have to become one of us to understand that. He's been dealing with disobedient children ever since Adam and Eve. He understood it only too well, and the main reason He came down to earth as one of us was to take the punishment for our sin upon Himself. He experienced humanity in its fulness along the way, but from the beginning there was a life path ordained for Jesus to take, starting in Bethlehem and ending at Golgotha. From the manger to the Cross.

Yes, that sweet little baby was born to die, and He knew His destiny long before it was fulfilled. So God also understands how we feel when we know the end of our earthly life is approaching, and even when death is imminent. He's been there too.

'God with us.' It's a concept so amazing, so wonderful, and it's truly what Christmas is all about. All the presents in the world pale into insignificance compared to that one great gift given to us by God. When you put that first in your heart and mind on Christmas morning, you experience the meaning of this blessed celebration in all it's miraculous fulness! It is my prayer that all of you reading this will take the time this Christmas to experience the pure joy of 'God with us!'

Merry Christmas, everyone!

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