The Coming of “God With Us”
The Bible presents a grand story of the unfolding relationship between God and humanity. That story reaches a crucial point at the the birth of Jesus, who the writers of Scripture identify as Emmanuel, “God with us.”
This short phrase, “God with us,” sums up so well the Good News that Christianity proclaims. God is not far, distant, aloof, or angry, but God is indeed near. His coming is good news because it means peace, joy, hope, and love for all humanity (cf. Luke 2).
Christmas heralds the coming of a king, but this royal walks the humble path of solidarity with humanity, proving himself a friend to those he came to save. Jesus himself uses the category of friendship to describe his purpose to his followers (cf. John 15:13).
“Friend,” much like “love,” is used so loosely — cheapened by a culture of shallow relationships spurred on by artificial communities. People are surrounded by acquaintances but starving for real friendship. Everyone needs authentic friends who will not abandon them when it is convenient and who will encourage them to growth and maturity.
Jesus does this for humanity as a whole in a way that is accessible to each personally. Here, I want to underscore two qualities of Jesus’s birth and life that reveal him as the true authentic friend.
Real friendship meets you where you are.
It is said that a good friend will bail you out of jail, but your best of friends will share your cell. The truth of this statement is friendship shares in all that life gives both good and bad. Those I consider my closest friends are the ones who were there with me in one way or another no matter my circumstances. When life was good, they would celebrate with me. When the road became difficult, we would commiserate together. Up or down, they share in my world and are with me exactly where I am in that moment.
Proverbs 17:17 says, “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.”
God sees humanity both at our best and our worst and continues to love despite it all. In that love, like the best of friends, God entered our space through the humble birth of Jesus. In a world facing the effects of sin, alienation from God, and the perpetual lack of peace, God’s grand gesture is to become one of us — experiencing all it means to be human so that he could overcome all that separates us from God.
Jeremiah speaks of a reality for which God longs for a time when God and God’s people can be together without anything standing in the way (see 31:33–34). At Christmas time, we celebrate a giant step toward that reality, and that step was made by God in the person of Jesus.
Real friendship calls you higher.
My best friends consistently call me higher. When they see that I could do better, they step in with a comment, an encouragement, or a challenge. Because they have my best interests in mind, they will not watch me settle for less.
The coming of Jesus is a revelation of the hope God has for humanity and all of creation.
God proves to be the best of friends by entering our space and “sharing our cell,” but he took a step further when in his life and in his death he called us higher, to live better, and to be more like him— something he enables us to do. This friendship continues today by the work of the Holy Spirit who is described by the Gospel of John as the Advocate, the one who is on our side.
The birth of Jesus is the bold statement of a dear friend letting us know that He will not give up on us.
May the reality of God’s friendship with humanity be revealed to each of us in special way as we celebrate the birth of the King, our Divine Friend.