Christmas is the fulfilment of prophecy. About seven hundred years before it happened, Isaiah prophesied, “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14). This prophecy was given to King Ahaz in response to his unbelief. While God had assured King Ahaz that all will go well in spite of his enemy’s threat, he maintained an unbelieving heart. Even when God pressed him to ask for a sign to prove that it will happen just as it was said, he did not bother. Instead, he made a flimsy excuse, saying, “I will not ask; I will not put the Lord to the test” (Isaiah 7:12). This same unbelieving attitude persisted even up to the time of the Lord Jesus. They did not believe in his teachings. However, unlike King Ahaz, who made an excuse so as not to ask for signs, the Jews during Jesus’ time kept asking for miracles to prove that He was indeed the Messiah. In response, Jesus said, “A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Matt. 12:39-40).
While Jesus’ birth through the Virgin Mary was the sign from God—as foretold by the prophet Isaiah—Jesus himself reinforced it, saying that no more signs would come next but his death and resurrection. Indeed, Jesus is the ultimate sign and this marks the beginning of a new relationship with God, because Jesus is our Immanuel—God with us. Knowing that God is with us gives us confidence and the boldness to walk in this troubled world. In his epistle to the Roman believers, the apostle Paul encouraged them, saying, “What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31). The apostle Paul was, in fact, echoing the message from God given through the prophet Isaiah: “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10). If Jesus is with us, there is no reason to fear, because we can do all things through him. He is not only God among us, but God with us.
Even in times past, God’s presence had been the source of strength and encouragement of God’s people. When Joshua was designated to lead Israel into the Promised Land, he was young and did not have the caliber of Moses. However, he was encouraged through these words from Moses: “Be strong and courageous, for you must go with this people into the land that the Lord swore to their forefathers to give them, and you must divide it among them as their inheritance. The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged” (Deut. 31:7-8). The abiding presence of God is a tremendous source of encouragement and this is what we all need. Since Jesus is our Immanuel, we can live in peace. He said, “In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
To us who received Jesus as Lord and Saviour, the fact that he is Immanuel becomes even more real because of the Holy Spirit. Jesus said, “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever…he lives with you and will be in you” (John 14:16-17). Indeed, we are the temple of the Holy Spirit and he will continue to impress the presence of God in us, because “he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment” (John 16:8). It is through this convicting work of the Holy Spirit that we shall be preserved holy and blameless until the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Before Jesus left for heaven, he commanded his disciples to spread the Good News. However, he was mindful of the challenges that they would face as they preached the Word. Therefore, he assured them of his abiding presence and said, “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matt. 28:19-20). Yes, Jesus is with us always because he is our Immanuel, God with us. Hallelujah!