“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).
Growing up, I loved playing sports. By the time I got to high school it became clear that basketball was going to be my thing (being 6'7 will do that). Some of my favorite moments were spent on the basketball court when I was in high school.
There's one thing that always sticks out to me about my games during those years. We would play a couple of times a week, and sometimes we'd travel a couple hours somewhere in the state of Kentucky for a road game. Regardless of how far we traveled there was one thing I could always count on when I walked out onto the court. My dad would be sitting somewhere in the bleachers.
I didn't realize it when I was a teenager, but coming to every single one of those games required a lot on his part. Just so that he could be there he was willing to give up time for work, hobbies, or at home. There are few things anyone has done to show me how much they care about me than him being present at those games throughout high school.
My guess is that most of you have a memory of someone going out of their way to support you with their presence. I'm reminded of the time my now wife (then fiance) woke up early on a Sunday morning to drive a few hours from Missouri to Kansas. I was preaching one of my first sermons at a church in Lawrence, and I didn't expect her to be there.
However, when I saw her walk through those doors, I felt loved. It meant more than she could know. When someone goes out of their way to be present with us it demonstrates just how much they care about us.
In a way, this is what Christians celebrate
It seems like a bad trade-off. Why would he do this?
Tim Keller offers his answer to that question in his book Why Christmas Matters.
"[But] if Jesus Christ is actually God come in the flesh, you're going to know much more about God … If Jesus is who he says he is, we have a 500-page autobiography from God, in a sense. And our understanding will be vastly more personal and specific than any philosophy or religion could give us. [Because of Christmas] look at what God has done to get you to know him personally. If the Son would come all this way to become a real person to you, don't you think the Holy Spirit will do anything in his power to make Jesus a real person to you in your heart? Christmas is an invitation by God: Look what I've done to come near to you. Now draw near to Me. I don't want to be a concept; I want to be a friend."
Here is the incredible truth about Christmas. God was willing to become a man so that he might be present with us. Not only did he want to be present with us, but he became a man to invite us into a relationship with Him. If we know that people care about us when they go out of their way to be present, how could we not see the love of God for us in his willingness to take on flesh and become human?
However, as we think about Jesus coming to earth we also know that he came here to accomplish a mission. He came ultimately to die as a substitute in our place for our sin. Jesus was willing to do more than simply be present with us to show us his love. Jesus was willing to do more than invite us into a relationship with Him to show us his love.
Ultimately, he was willing to go to the cross and die in our place for our sin. He was willing to take our rebellion against God on himself. He endured the judgment of God that we deserved. He did all of this because he loves us.
If you remember nothing else at Christmas I hope you remember this. God wants you. He's inviting you into a relationship with Him. He went to a cross and died in your place to remove the obstacles that were keeping you from Him. At every step in the process God moved toward us, and now he invites us to move toward Him.
You might have reasons to doubt whether God would want anything to do with someone like you. I know I've had those thoughts from time to time. It's easy to fall into the mindset that if people know who we really are, then they'll want nothing to do with us.
And yet, God knows who you really are, and he wants you. He came to earth to show you that. He died on a cross to show you that. You might have plenty of things that you doubt in this life, but the incarnation and the cross prove to us that we can't doubt God's love for us.