It was the end of November 1997. My brother had died earlier that year. My sister and mother had died the year before. It was the beginning of the Advent season. My parents and siblings were gone and gone for me as well was excitement over the coming of Christmas. It seemed every time I watched TV it was full of commercials that featured warm loving family gatherings that caused me to be envious.
The Christian musician Michael Card was having a concert in Portland. He is one of my favorite musicians so I went to the concert. One of the songs he sang that night was Immanuel. The words Michael sang were just what I needed to hear: “Immanuel, our God is with us.”
The promise is given in Matthew 1:23: “‘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 has come to be with us. He doesn’t leave us on our own to try to deal with the challenges of life. Jesus promised He will never leave us. He rose again from the dead, so we do not fear that death will ever separate Him from us. Jesus said, “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you” (John 14:18).
It seems sadly inappropriate that Christmas is the loneliest time of year for many. Christmas is about God coming so that we never have to be alone. Immanuel – God with us – is a glorious truth we get to cling to.
Some people don’t get to enjoy warm family gatherings. It can be miserable to be alone on Christmas Eve, but what helps a person endure is knowing Immanuel. God has come to be with us in the miserable times. He is with us when others aren’t. He sympathizes with our hurts and He offers hope that the hard times are not eternal but His love is.
The words of the song that comforted my heart in 1997 still ring true today: “On earth there is no power, there is no depth or height, that could ever separate us from the love of God in Christ. Immanuel, our God is with us.”