This season I am concentrating on a personal theme of “Immanuel, God with us.” The focus for the Faith by Phase lessons this month is taken from the Luke account of the birth of Jesus. If you are not receiving these family weekly lessons, please join the Faith by Phase Facebook page. Coincidently, Jonathan Hanegan invited us to partner with the Argentina brethren to read through the book of Luke for the next few weeks, so I am enjoying Luke. My question for these readings is “just when and how is God with us?”
The references of the usage of Immanuel in Isaiah are significant as they are during a time when the known world was not doing so well. God’s people were not doing well. God comforts his people through Isaiah to give them a promise that no matter what, he is with them. His message often uses two phrases together: fear not for I am with you (Isaiah 41).
In Luke, that plays out in a slightly different way but just as significant. The angel Gabriel appears to Zachariah, Mary, and the shepherds with the words, “Fear not.” These people were able to hear the words of God to give them the news of His plan. That plan was the coming of “Immanuel.” God was breaking into that world to fulfil His promise. He always keeps His promise!
I think about these events and ask if God is still saying to us, “Fear not, I am with you?” Is He with us in a pandemic? How about in isolation? I look at two of these people who were told not to fear and the different responses. Zachariah did not think he could trust Gabriel to be telling him the truth about such an inconceivable revelation. So, his consequence was to sit silently for 9 months and think about that. Mary heard just as improbable news and her response was, “I am a servant of the Lord, may it be according to your word.” God’s promise was equally cared out for both, regardless of their reaction. My take-away is that my faith, or lack of, does not change God’s promise to me.
When I respond in faith to God’s promise, what then is the outcome? It is striking in this text that Zachariah, Elizabeth, and Mary were said to have been filled with the Holy Spirit. That certainly is God’s presence in the most intimate way. Their circumstances of hardship had not changed but because of the Spirit, they each expressed deep gratitude and praise for all God had done, was doing and would do. There was no fear but praise.
I want to encourage our families to walk through these trying times with the same promise of Immanuel. He has come and lives in us. Dads, can you speak these words of comfort and security to your family so they will depend on God’s presence as you do? Moms, can words of gratitude and praise to God be heard often so that your children will trust in the God who is in you? Our children and grandchildren will imitate whom we trust the most. Let it be Immanuel!