December 16, 2021
All right then, the Lord himself will give you the sign. Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God is with us’) (Isaiah 7:14 NLT).
Friend to Friend
With all the decorating, baking, shopping, and holiday parties, I sometimes feel lonely during the preparation for the Christmas season. While I interact with a variety of people - from a sales clerk to other moms at a school party - I don’t always connect with them beyond small talk. I also find my quiet time with the Lord diminished due to my overwhelming to-do list. I want the celebration of Christ’s birth with family and friends to be special, but not at the expense of intimacy with the One who sent His Son to save me.
During times of spiritual loneliness, we might entertain questions like:
- Is the Lord still with me?
- What should I do in moments when I can’t sense God’s nearness?
We can rest in the truth this holiday season that even when we don’t sense God at work, He is. He is with us, and we can reflect on God’s promises when we can’t sense His presence. Seven hundred years before Christ was born, the prophet Isaiah revealed that God would send a Messiah to His people. Isaiah prophesied, “All right then, the Lord himself will give you the sign. Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God is with us’)” (Isaiah 7:14).
This prophecy regarding a virgin has sparked much theological debate. I always thought this verse was just about Jesus the Messiah, but it also had significance in Isaiah’s day. It was fulfilled for the original readers of Isaiah’s message when the nations threatening God’s people were defeated in connection with this prophecy. Although we don’t know the identity of the mother or the child, the timeframe of Isaiah’s sign fit with historical events.
We also know that this sign had future implications. One commentator described his opinion this way, “I believe that the sign as originally given had a single meaning but a double significance. Its meaning is that God is with us and we need not fear what other human beings may do to us.” While the verse has only one meaning, it had a double fulfillment that would come 700 years apart.
The gospel of Matthew helps us see the fulfillment of Isaiah’s words in the birth of Jesus. In Matthew 1, we learn that an angel appeared to Joseph giving greater insight into Isaiah’s words: “And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins. All of this occurred to fulfill the Lord’s message through his prophet: ‘Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us’” (Matthew 1:21-23).
Jesus is Immanuel – God with us. Even when we struggle to connect with others during the hustle and bustle of the season, we are never alone. Our holy God can draw near to imperfect people because Jesus paid the penalty for our sins through His sacrifice on the cross. We don’t have to feel lonely because we can talk to the Lord, listen to His Word, and rest in His gift of a Messiah.
Signs like the one given in Isaiah 7:14 confirm God’s long-term plan and commitment to His people. The meaning is clear for both Isaiah’s day, Matthew’s day, and ours—God is with us. No matter what is going on in our lives, we can trust Immanuel’s presence at all times.
This takes active faith because our human defaults lead us toward distraction, self-pity, and lies when we feel alone. Isaiah’s prophetic words remind us to lean into the truth of Immanuel with intentionality. I don’t know what you are walking through this holiday season, but perhaps you can relate with experiencing spiritual loneliness.
In the midst of today’s tasks, gatherings, or regular routine, take some time to reflect on the truth that God loves you. He is with you. Christmas is a season to remember these certainties rather than sink into isolation. At the heart of Isaiah’s message is the hope of the gospel: God sent His only Son Jesus to earth, and He offered the perfect sacrifice—His very life—to cleanse us from our sins.
Immanuel, I know you are here. I am not alone. You are my Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace. Help me trust You more and more. Grow my faith so that I might love and serve You today. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Now It’s Your Turn
What responses come to the surface as you consider that God is with you right now in whatever circumstances you are facing today?
More from the Girlfriends
Check out Melissa’s holiday devotional titled Total Christmas Makeover for practical ways to focus on Rituals, Relationships, and Rest this season. https://amzn.to/35N4P7N
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