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.’” When Joseph woke up, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded and took Mary as his wife. But he did not have sexual relations with her until her son was born. And Joseph named him Jesus.
Matthew 1:22-25 NLT
One of the images we contemplate at Christmastime is the image of Immanuel: God with us. As the Angel tells Joseph, this was God’s promise from ages before. Isaiah wrote these words in prophecy hundreds of years before The birth of Jesus.
Often as we consider this image, we concentrate on the “with” part of it. Because it is pretty astounding that God wants to be WITH us. That God has never been content to see us from a distance. That God is closer than we think.
But I remember hearing a sermon a number of years ago that emphasized the word “us” in the phrase “God with us”. I remember being blown away by this sermon. It changed the way I understood Christian community (read: the church).
No longer could I see my brothers and sisters in Christ as simply those on their own version of the journey I am on. Instead I saw us as a cohesive unit, called by God. I saw that it was God’s intent that we be in this together. Sure, my journey is unique and valuable in and of itself. But if my journey never crosses paths with another’s, then I am not what God has called us to be.
We aren’t meant to do this on our own. We are meant to go down the road together. Even Jesus was born into a family – into an “us.” We need each other, in order to be what God has intended us to be as individuals and as a community. If we are going to be right with God, we have to be part of an us – part of a community.
This Advent, may you not only belong to a community, but seek ways to invite others in. May you not only enjoy those who are easy to get along with, but seek to make peace with those who are tough to get along with. May you not only know that God is WITH us, but also that God is with US.