Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:
“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall call his name Immanuel”
(which means, God with us). When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.
God is present. God is with us.
There is something grounding, hopeful, and beautiful about being fully present with one another. In a time when we all walk around with a computer that does everything in our pockets, it feels more than ever like a gift when someone offers you their attention and presence.
My youngest son, Wesley, recently turned 8 years old. And he seemingly wants nothing more than the presence of his mom or dad — when he’s scared, when he’s excited, when he’s practicing piano, when he is thinking aloud, when he’s drawing, when he’s reading. He just wants us to be with him. I’m grateful he asks for it, as his sweet requests are good reminders and make it easy to say yes and to put down my phone, or house project, or lingering Hope work. And he is often gifting us with his presence along the way.
The birth of Jesus is a sign of God’s presence. In verse 23, Matthew quotes Isaiah 7:14 to show that Jesus is the fulfillment of this prophesied virgin birth that brings a son called Immanuel or “God with us.” God was and is with us. God was present in the lineage between Abraham, David, and Jesus that was detailed in verses 1–17. God was present with Mary’s and Joseph’s struggles and joys. God was present at the virgin conception and birth. God is present in the joyous moments between me and Wesley. God is present in the sorrows and injustices we each encounter. God makes himself present with humanity.
We look back today to celebrate the miracle of the virgin birth of Jesus at Christmas, we look ahead to fulfilled promises of God’s kingdom and justice, and we look to the present with gratitude that God is with us right now in this and each moment. May you know, welcome, and celebrate the presence of the Christ this season. And may you also gift that presence to one another.
Ryan White is the associate dean for academic advising and applied learning at Hope College.
Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.