It’s not surprising that the infinite God of the universe has many names—names that aren’t merely titles or designations, but names that describe His character and ascribe Him the glory He is due.
God displays His own focus on names as Isaiah prophesies of the coming of Jesus in Isaiah 7:14: “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”
The fulfillment of that prophecy and name assignment—this time, complete with a definition—comes in Matthew 1:23:
“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).
God with us. It’s a profound and ridiculously humbling reality that God, the Creator and Lord over all, came to earth to live among us people. Us unholy, sinful people. And He came to not only be with us, but to save us and give His life in exchange for us unholy, sinful people.
God with us in the person of Jesus also brings practical contemplations. If you’re like me, you’ve probably wondered what it was like to actually hold the newborn Immanuel, to watch Him as a child, to walk dusty roads with Him as an adult, to witness astounding miracles, or just to eat, talk, and serve with Him. There are times when I long for that kind of physical presence of Jesus, but then I’m quickly prompted by His presence in me—the Holy Spirit—that what we have as believers is truly an advantage. For when the risen Jesus left earth to return to the Father in heaven, He promised His presence would continue, as the Holy Spirit would come to those who believe (John 16:7).
God with us is not merely a Christmas truth; it is as eternal and multifaceted as He is. God’s presence with His people began in the garden with Adam and Eve, and continued in unique ways throughout the Old Testament, His physical presence in the coming of Jesus, and His continued presence in His people through the Holy Spirit.
But as real and verifiable as the presence of God is in your life as a Christian, are you aware of it? Does His presence affect your daily life? Your thoughts, emotions, attitudes, and actions? No matter how you might answer those questions, let’s take this opportunity to consider God’s presence together in the midst of the season we celebrate Immanuel.
Rest in the Presence of God
First, we can find rest in the presence of God. Rest in God’s presence may be physical rest, but it includes so much more than that. It’s rest from striving, wondering, worry, and futile human effort. God invited Moses into this kind of rest in Exodus 33:14: “And he said, ‘My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.’”
In the midst of the huge task of leading the Israelites through the wilderness where physical rest was most likely a rarity, the Lord kindly offered and gave His presence to Moses and the Israelites in unique ways. He offers us a similar kind of rest in Matthew 11:28–30:
“Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
If we humbly go to Jesus and rest in him, we will learn new ways of rest from Him, that may not lessen the practical realities of our daily lives, but will give us relief from trying to figure out our own way or striving in our own feeble strength.
Live and Serve in the Presence of God
And why do we need to find rest in God’s presence? So we might live in His presence and serve in His presence.
As we are fueled by resting in God’s presence, as we learn and reorient our perspective to His, we can live in His presence. In our relationships, work, and responsibilities, let’s take this opportunity to realize that the very Spirit of God is in us as believers. Living in His presence means we are not alone in awkward conversations. The Spirit is with you as you complete the huge project at work. God Himself is with me as I switch the laundry for the fourth time today.
And God is with me as I serve Him and people. It’s His presence through His Spirit and His Word alive in me that enables me to serve. Don’t you need that reminder in the midst of the Christmas season?
As a woman leading other women in some way and in all the roles of your life, grasp that you are serving in the presence of God. That changes not only how I’m thinking and feeling myself, but also what I’m thinking and feeling about those I’m serving. My attitude about the Christmas event I’m planning for a couple of hundred women and the giant to-do list that comes with it changes when I consider God’s presence. My tone with the woman overwhelmed with grief during this holiday season will be characterized by sincere care and love when I remember God’s presence. The cookies I need to bake for my neighborhood open house are going to be laced with a lot more love when I serve in the presence of God.
The coming of Immanuel changed everything. That’s what we remember and celebrate at Christmas. But realize and remember perhaps in a new way today that God is with you. Now. Forever. So rest, live, and serve in His presence.