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  • Baptist Beacon

The present of presence

by Matt Carter

HOLT, MI – Last Christmas (you remember 2020, right?) was a holiday like no other for many people. Perhaps, like most, you spent it exclusively with your household and were left to celebrate by Zoom with your friends and extended family.

This distance from loved ones made the holiday seem a little hollow, a little less joyous than usual. It’s not so merry and bright when you have to keep telling grandpa he’s on mute. Technical glitches aside, what made it such a burden is that we are made for community, for physical presence with others.

This is why the incarnation is such a gift. Jesus did not announce His love to us by text or send out a Zoom link to witness His saving work. Jesus is our Immanuel, “God with us.” The God of the universe took on flesh, walked on this earth, sweated, laughed, cried, bled, died, and rose.

This great truth is made plain to us in Matthew 1:21-23: “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").”

“God with us” is the great marvel, the great joy, the great wonder of Christmas, and of each day- now and for all eternity. "God with us" was the blessed reality of life in the Garden of Eden before sin entered the world. It is what we are created for, it is our deepest longing. "God with us" was a physical reality, in space and time, during the days of our Lord’s flesh. "God with us" will be the all pervasive reality in the New Heavens and New Earth (Rev. 21-22). "God with us" is the current experience of the people of Jesus. What He promised in Matthew 28:20, He delivered by pouring out the Holy Spirit to indwell believers. Jesus is with His people now, always, and forever.

Jesus is "God with us." He will never leave us nor forsake us and His presence brings us many blessings. Jesus is strength when we are weak, comfort in grief, peace in hardship, and confidence in times of fear. He multiplies our joys, grants us boldness to serve Him and speak for Him, and gives us stability when life seems out of control. He is our Victor as we battle sin and when we fail He welcomes us back with open arms. That is good news of great joy!

Hopefully, this Christmas you will have the opportunity to celebrate in-person with friends and family. As you cherish time together, remember that Jesus is present with us. Ask Him how you can show His love by being present to the lonely, the hurting, and the needy in your church, family, and community. Who can you bring into the presence of Jesus by showing His love and sharing His gospel? The best present we can give to anyone this holiday is to remind them of the presence of Jesus, "God with us", who saves His people from their sins.



Matt Carter serves as the Lead Pastor of Cedar Street Church in Holt. Prior to coming to Cedar Street, he served in various roles at several churches in North Carolina. He holds an MDiv from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Matt and His wife Anna have four kids and one marginally tolerable dog.


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