Emmanuel, God With Us
A devotional by Malinda Fugate
Matthew 1-2, Deuteronomy 31:8, Zechariah 3:17, Psalm 139:7-10 (NIV)
The holidays are celebrated with family. That’s how it goes, right?
We gather for meals, gifts, and togetherness. Each family has a unique way of spending their Christmas time, but connecting with loved ones is part of the festivities. But what if we’re alone for the holidays? What if we find ourselves without family, not wanting to intrude on friends, or separated by pandemic conditions? Or perhaps we are surrounded by people, yet still feel isolated. And the holiday traditions might highlight our loneliness, but on December 26, we will continue the day-to-day routine by ourselves, as usual. The ache of being alone knows no season.
Mary and Joseph could relate. Their story begins with family as the first chapter of Matthew in The Holy Bible, lists the rich genealogy of the newborn Messiah. But while Mary and Joseph were surrounded by a community of family and friends, they faced a daunting task alone. A pregnancy before marriage was isolating in its shame, and it was doubtful that many believed Mary when she explained that this child was of the Holy Spirit. Even Joseph intended to divorce her until the angel of the Lord confirmed that Mary was carrying their Savior.
Every new parent relies on support from their family and friends as they face the new adventure of childbirth and the arrival of an infant. But this young couple was separated from their support system, relying on God to get them through the new challenges and difficulties (not to mention the enormous responsibility of parenting the Messiah).
Their isolation increased when they traveled a great distance to Bethlehem. Though the City of David was the place of Joseph’s heritage, they most likely didn’t know anyone there. That’s how they found themselves in a stable when Jesus was born. Far from home, teenage Mary labored and delivered her baby boy. Their visitors were strangers—no friends brought diapers and onesies. Her mother wasn’t there to provide advice or give the baby a bottle while Mary showered. We don’t know the reason, but Joseph and Mary remained in Bethlehem instead of returning to their hometown of Nazareth.
Scholars and theologians estimate that Jesus was a toddler, perhaps around two years old, when the magi visited them in their house. The young family barely had time to settle into their new community when the threat of Herod’s murderous anger drove them to follow angelic instruction and flee to Egypt. Once again, the three were isolated in a foreign land, frightened for their lives. It would be years before they returned to the familiar town of Nazareth.
Yet, in their isolation, Mary and Joseph had a gift. Their precious baby Messiah, whose name, Emmanuel, means “God with us.” Though separated from a human support system, the couple was never for a moment far from the presence of Almighty God. He provided for their needs and directed them every step of the way. The Savior was in their arms, providing hope for the days and years ahead. But when the angel declared before the baby’s birth that His name would be “God with us,” that “us” meant more than only Mary and Joseph. This baby was for all people. This baby was for you.
Just as God was faithfully with the holy family thousands of years ago, so faithfully He remains with you. Every day, every moment is spent in the presence of Almighty God, a Heavenly Father full of nurture and love. His provision and guidance were not exhausted in Nazareth, Bethlehem, or Egypt. He gives you the same care that He gave Mary and Joseph. He loves you with the same intensity He loved them. He gave His Son just as much for you as He did for them.
As He promised the Israelites in Deuteronomy 31:8, “The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” God gave His word to Israel through Zephaniah the prophet, and this care continues for us today. “The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing” (Zephaniah 3:17). The psalmist described the steadfast presence of God when he wrote, “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast” (Psalm 139:7-10).
As we face Christmas celebrations seemingly alone, let us take the opportunity to draw closer to the Lord. We can spend one-on-one time with our Heavenly Father, recognizing His continual presence in our lives, worshipping Him on the holiday commemorating the birth of Christ, His Son. Emmanuel, God With Us—today, tomorrow, and forever.
Malinda Fugate writes from the heart.
Though she serves full time as the Children’s Education Director at a church in Southern California, she is also a crafter of words published in books.
Her writing includes children's faith resources, commercial copywriting, and various faith-based stage and screenplays.
Malinda invites you to explore the various 3:16s in the Bible with her new book, The Other Three Sixteens (published by Ambassador International in May 2020).
She also invites you to read her previously published books: Bible Time for Active Kids, which is an activities-based devotional that is available for purchase on Amazon.com, and The Pen and the Sword: Connecting With the Word of God, which is an interactive creative writing journal.
Malinda earned a communications degree with a theatre emphasis from Azusa Pacific University, and then worked behind the scenes at the Los Angeles Salem radio stations, including The Fish and KKLA.
When she's not writing or working at church, Malinda might be creating art, reading, or exploring the many adventures to be found in the Los Angeles area.
She lives by the beach with her pup, Yoshi.
Visit Malinda online via https://www.malindafugate.com.
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