God’s Gift in 2020 – Immanuel


Matthew 1: 18-23

18 This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit.
19 Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.
20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.
21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”
22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet:
23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).

The central truth of the Christmas story is especially relevant this year. We have endured seasons of separation and isolation which have created a new category of stress we didn’t realize existed. Before the world became aware of this pandemic we might have all imagined that a time when we could stay home and distance ourselves from the work-a-day routines would be something akin to heaven on earth. But then, when that which we’d imagined actually became reality, we all began to recognize just how important being with other human beings actually is. We realized that personal (and in person) interaction is an essential component for a healthy mind.

For the most part we’ve learned to cope, but the human cost associated with lockdowns, quarantines, mask wearing and distancing ourselves from one another have only begun to emerge. For those who have no hope in Christ the world has become a bleak place but that doesn’t mean there aren’t a lot of wise and unwise proposals about how we can move forward.

There are those who vainly propose that adherence to the proper set of protocols will bring the pandemic under control as though somehow mankind is capable of bending nature to his will. This is arrogant folly of the highest order.

Others seem certain that medical discoveries and treatments are the key to recovery. Maybe. Certainly, we hope this is the case.

There are those, of whom I am one, who believe that “viruses gonna virus” and that our best efforts to control, mitigate and treat it will probably fall short. The simple reality is that until enough of us have contracted and survived the virus or been immunized against it so that we provide one another with sufficient roadblocks to the spread (herd immunity), we will likely continue to see outbreaks. The good news is that we now know that the vast majority of us will easily and in many cases even unknowingly survive Covid.

Of course, there are those who seem to delight in the perverse prediction that nothing will ever be the same again. My response? If that turns out to be the case it will almost certainly not be because of the threat of this virus but because of the ill-conceived, intentional and man-made reactions to it. Never underestimate man’s ability to take a bad situation and make it worse.

We are often like the man with a bucket trying to bail the floodwater from his back yard by tossing it over his chain-link fence. The act of doing something makes us feel good even if the result isn’t productive. Does that mean we shouldn’t try to do something? Of course, not. But when we try and fail we are wise to try something else rather than repeat what hasn’t worked.

Oftentimes common sense makes the most sense. If you’re sick stay away from others and do your best to kill the germs which might infect them. Otherwise, I encourage you to go on and live your life. If you are going to die from this (and I sincerely believe and pray that will not be the case), wouldn’t the worst thing be that you literally wasted the final days, months, and or years of your life being afraid and isolated?

Be careful.
Be wise.
But don’t be afraid.

For those of us whose hope rests not in the government, or with scientists; with bailouts or with vaccines, we look around and, while we are often frustrated and inconvenienced, we are not in despair and we are not without a larger perspective.

We pray and believe that God will lead us out of this morass understanding that His divine power and knowledge far surpasses anything we can imagine. The remedies we predict will bring resolution may prove inconsequential compared to what God has in store. The nature and scope of His deliverance may, as yet, be unknown to us.

God’s ultimate provision for us was Jesus, His only Son. Jesus came into the world to rescue us from our sin but also to be with us in the middle of all the frustration, suffering and pain which is a part of life. To borrow a phrase from a song, “The Promise,” by Michael W. Smith,

“God is with us,
God is for us,
God is in us,
We will sing!”


Don’t stop singing in hard times. Don’t forget Who is with you, Who is for you and Who is in you. God is no less with us today than before. He will see us through and His deliverance always exceeds our ability to imagine.


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