by Matthew A. Rich
They shall name him Emmanuel – which means “God is with us” (Matthew 1:23). The high and lofty one who inhabits eternity becomes God with flesh. God we can understand. God we can cling to when the night is long and our fears crowd in. God who can comfort us. God who can hear us. God who understands us. God who shares the skin we are in.
Could it really be true? God is with us? Because if that is true, if Emmanuel is really true, then the skin we wear becomes immensely valuable. We might even say the flesh we are in becomes holy. Yes, it might even be worth saving.
In Matthew 1:18-25, verses we read often this time of year, the Messiah gets two names. Before the Messiah is called Emmanuel, we learn his parents are to name him Jesus “because he will save his people from their sins.” God is with us to save us. God did not come to be with us to punish us, to trick us, to string us along, to get us to do all kinds of funny tricks for him. No, from Eden to the New Jerusalem, God is with us to save us.
God is with you because you are worth saving.
If you are a teenage girl visited by an angel with news that you will bear a child, you are worth saving.
If you are a carpenter trying to do everything by the book when you receive unexpected news, you are worth saving.
If you are no-name shepherd watching sheep in the middle of the night, you are worth saving.
If you are a scholar of a strange religion in a foreign land who sees a star in the sky, you are worth saving.
If you are a parent unsure what to do with a child who exasperates you every day, you are worth saving.
If you are teenager struggling with your body and the images you see on magazine covers, you are worth saving.
If you are a college student home for Christmas break, terrified of the police because of the color of your skin, you are worth saving.
If you have sworn to serve and protect your community but fear even your best intentions will enrage friends and neighbors, you are worth saving.
If you are convinced that nothing positive can come from the recent election, you are worth saving.
If you are facing Christmas for the first time without the love of your life, you are worth saving.
If you are an elder praying for a Christmas miracle to keep the church lights on …
If you are an emotionally drained pastor who longs for Christmas to be over …
If you are you …
If I am me …
No matter what skin we wear, God is with us because we are worth saving.
And your neighbor is too.
I know I need to hear that Word every year at Christmas, and a whole lot more often than that.