“‘…and they shall call His name Immanuel’, which translated means, ‘God with us.’” (Matthew 1:23)
It has always been God’s design to dwell with his people.
In the very beginning, after God had made everything good, and before the fall of man into sin, God walked in the Garden of Eden where he had placed the very first man and his wife (Genesis 3:8).
The sin of the man and the woman created in God’s own image interrupted mankind’s perfect fellowship with God, and set them at a kind of distance from God. But God was not done in seeking to dwell with man – in fact, he had barely just begun the process.
The LORD God showed his determination to walk among his people in his words to the nation Israel, whom he had called to himself (Leviticus 26:12). It was for this very purpose of making his presence to dwell among them that he not only commanded their holiness (Deut. 23:14), but also set up a system of religious structures, sacrifices, priests, and ordinances – a system which seems, to the casual observer, to be intentionally and primarily restrictive. But this system was actually designed (in part, at least) to allow a holy God to dwell in the midst of a people who on the one hand needed God’s presence, but on the other hand whose sinfulness would otherwise have prevented it (Ex. 33:5, 15-17).
In fact, even when Israel had rejected God over and over again for centuries, he left them with a promise of hope that his glory would one day return to dwell in their midst (Eek. 43:1-5).
And yet while God made his presence to dwell among Israel by means of his “glory” dwelling among them, this could not compare to the ultimate expression of God dwelling among his people: the Son of God becoming flesh and dwelling among us in the person of Jesus Christ:
And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1:14)
The message of Christmas is, among many other things, a message that God unswervingly intends to dwell among his people, and that even such an act of sending his own Son into the world in human flesh is not too much for him in order to make this happen.
Moreover, God does this all despite our turning away from him to our own way – time and again choosing our sin over his perfect and righteous will.
And so the question is not whether God is willing to dwell with us. It is, rather, whether we are willing to dwell with God.
And so we must answer, with Christmastime being as fitting a time as ever: Will we welcome God’s presence with us by embracing the Son of God through faith (John 1:12)? And will we value the promise of God’s presence with us above all by rejecting our unholy desires (2 Corinthians 6:16-18, Revelation 3:20)?