MT 1:22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23“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. This is definitely the most powerful and most profound message of the Advent season. From generation to generation, God with Us remains to be the most immovable, non-negotiable and unbending truth we proclaim as followers of Jesus today. In our scripture reading today, we are invited to look into Matthew’s account of the birth of Christ. Matthew directly quotes an important prophecy written by Isaiah, “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son and you will call him Immanuel. (Isaiah 7:14)
Going back to the time of Isaiah in the Old testament, thousands of years before Jesus Christ was born, we remember that nation of Assyria. The Assyrians were a proud and brutal people whose styles of warfare were sophisticated and savage. The Assyrians loved to burn alive their captured enemies. Part of their warfare was to severe the heads of their enemies or skin them alive. The bloody military sieges waged by Assyria left nations in great fear including the nation of Judah, under King Ahaz. And so, for the sake of survival, King ahaz found himself making dangerous alliances with Assyria despite the warnings of God through prophet Isaiah.
You see friends, like King Ahaz, many people today, for the sake of survival, will forge dangerous alliances with evil and wicked forces. They are so coward in standing up for what is right that they end up giving themselves on a silver platter to what is not of God. Some would call this “practicality” or merely the natural instinct of survival, but in the eyes of the Lord, these ways can lead us to ruin and destruction. Many times over, God sent Isaiah to remind King Ahaz not to put his confidence in Assyria but only in the Lord but King Ahaz was too coward and too spineless to stand for God. At one specific point, through prophet Isaiah, God’s words of promise through a prophecy were spoken to the King, “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son and you will call him Immanuel.”
Immanuel is a Hebrew name which means God with us. These words of prophecy about a child who will be born and will be named Immanuel (meaning God with us) were spoken by Isaiah in order for King Ahaz to turn to God in the midst of the political turmoil. But unfortunately, King Ahaz remained stubborn and failed to rise up in a new level of faith that God wanted to see in him as the leader of his nation. Instead, he continued to put his confidence in the nation of Assyria for the political and economic survival of Judah. Consequently, he made serious spiritual compromises along the way, the worst of it was when he destroyed the altar of the Lord and built a new altar in honor of the gods of Assyria. At one point, he even sacrificed the life of his own son to appease the Assyrian gods. What does it mean for us Christians today to celebrate the message of Immanuel, God with us?
God With Us is a call to courage. My two children, Khaki and Red, when asked to do a task they find big and intimidating like going inside a room full of strangers or approaching a friend to ask for forgiveness they will instinctively turn to me and my husband and say, “Samahan mo ako.” And each and every time, we find ourselves obliging and experiencing later on the joy of seeing our children succeed. For us parents, being there for our children during the difficult seasons of their lives is simply non-negotiable. And on the part of our children, once they see us, their parents— once they hear our assurance, our support and unconditional presence— the very moment they know that we are with them, a glorious thing happens. Our children rise up in their spirits and do what they never imagined they could accomplish.
King Ahaz knew that his nation could never stand a chance before Assyria. They were powerless and they needed to survive at all cost. But here was the still small voice of God telling King Ahaz, through prophet Isaiah, “I am with you. I am with you.”
Just like the experience of King Ahaz, there comes a point in our lives when we need to choose between what our physical eyes see and what God wants us to believe. That’s what courage is all about. Courage is not merely being reckless or fearless. Courage is our ability to align ourselves with God and trust him absolutely, totally and wholeheartedly.
God With Us is a call to Christ-centeredness. As followers of Christ, we are always reminded of one sure and basic truth — that the entirety of God’s character is in the very being and identity of Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God–Savior and Lord. Therefore, for us who believe, Jesus Christ is not merely an anointed prophet, a miracle worker or is he just a teacher equal to anyone who has ever lived or will ever live. Scripture says that Jesus is God with Us. The very fullness of God is in Jesus Christ.
As we welcome the Season of Advent— let us all be reminded that because God is with us through Jesus Christ, we can be courageous in facing all the uncertainties of the future. In the midst of the many voices in this world contending for our loyalty and devotion—- may we be careful and wise in our choice. There is Only One True God —- and anyone who believes in him will never perish but have life eternal.