“Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which translated means, “God with us.”
(Matthew 1:23, NASB)
The year 2020 has been a difficult year. I don’t mean to dampen the mood again by reminding you of that. It’s Christmas after all! You know very well it was a tough year. We had everything from national protests and a global pandemic to strange phenomena like mass toilet paper panic. It truly was a difficult and confusing year! And so, it is understandable that many this year would ask the question: Where was God in 2020?
Well, I’m glad you asked because our verse today provides an answer to this natural query; it stirs up comfort you’d do well to remember this Christmas season, given the year we’ve all had. Matthew 1:23 declares a great truth that brought assurance to Joseph when he heard it first on the heels of the difficult news that his fiancée, Mary, was pregnant. It encouraged the faithful on that first Christmas as they waited for God to speak up after four hundred years of silence. And it’s encouraged believers for millennia since!
Now I don’t often get excited about prepositions—those little terms that express the relationship between one word and another—but in Matthew 1:23 there is a preposition we should all get excited about this Christmas; it ushers comfort into our tough year. Every Christmas season is an opportunity to remember that God is not “against” us, God is not “beyond” us, and God is not away “from” us. Rather, every Christmas—no matter the year—we are reminded that God is “with” us. There it is—that preposition “with.” Who would’ve thought a preposition could bring such a comfort to Joseph then and to us now?
So, rejoice in that today. What Matthew stresses at the beginning of his Gospel in chapter 1:23 (“God with us”) he reiterates at the end of his Gospel in the words of Jesus in chapter 28:20 (“I am with you”). It’s an important truth to proclaim. Together, 1:23 and 28:20 are like God’s arms drawing us in for a great and comforting divine hug in this tough year. Where was God in 2020? With us!