Monday, December 13, 2021

Devotionals for the Heart: God's Presence at Christmastime and Always

God With Us
A devotional by Cyndi Staudt

“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 1:23 (NLT)

Christmas has always been my favorite time of year.

It always felt like Thanksgiving was the Grand Marshal of this electric parade, drawing fall to a close and ushering in the Advent season, a season celebrating the coming of Jesus into the world. My Dad’s birthday was on Christmas Day, which seemed to add to the excitement and joy of the season. Our family shared many traditions—cutting down our tree with hot chocolate in hand, going to Christmas Eve candlelight service, baking endless batches of cookies—that not only served to draw us closer but established heartwarming memories that will never fade.

With all the festivities of the season, as many gather in groups large and small, it might be hard to imagine some feel an overwhelming sense of loneliness, even when surrounded by a large number of people. Maybe it’s a first year without a loved one or separation from someone held dear by distance, death or divorce. Feelings of being alone can actually be intensified when being surrounded by others rather than diminished.

I used to wonder how anyone could be sad or lonely at Christmas until I became that person. When my Dad died six years ago, it seemed the light dimmed on the season just a little. Just enough to allow a smidge of sadness to enter my heart where joy previously resided. As cancer claimed my Mom and my faithful furry friend this year, it seems the sadness has overtaken the joy. Now, loneliness fights to claim more space than it deserves in my spirit. Loneliness and sadness now seem to be automatic, and I have to pursue peace and joy where it once occurred naturally.

I find encouragement in the words of Matthew as he assures us we are never alone, no matter how lonely we might feel. God was intentional when He said Jesus would be called Immanuel, God with us. Not God near us, next to us, or a phone call away. But He is with us. Always. In the valleys and on the mountaintops. In seasons of joy and seasons of sadness. In moments of peace and moments of pain. He knew there were going to be times in our lives when we needed the assurance that no matter what our feelings may be telling us, our faith can claim the promise that God is always with us.

Romans 8:38-39 reassures us that nothing can separate us from Him or His love. Not life nor death. Not angels nor demons. Not our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow. Nothing in all creation can separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Jesus Christ. And revealing Jesus to the world is what the Christmas season is all about. God leads my lonely heart back to His through reminding me of the reason for this holiday season. While people, memories and traditions help make the season special, the baby in the manger is what makes salvation possible. Jesus Christ’s arrival into the world as a baby, set in motion God’s plans for redemption and initiated the rescue mission we so desperately needed.

We hold a God-sized gap in our hearts that nothing and no one in this world can satisfy. When we are overwhelmed with a sense of aloneness, we can remind ourselves to be intentional about pursuing God’s presence, which is always with us. Christmas may look a little different this year and certainly has a far different feel than years gone by, but the presence of God and the love of our Savior never changes.

God is always with us and waiting for us to draw near to His heart of love.

Let’s Pray:
Loving Father, thank you for sending Jesus to be Immanuel, “God with us”. We are grateful You are omnipresent (everywhere) at all times. When our feelings betray us, our faith assures us of who You are, how You are and where You are. As we journey through the Christmas season, let us remember that Jesus is the reason for this season. While the traditions and activities make for wonderful memories and sweet celebrations, help us to keep our eyes and hearts fixed on the Savior who made His arrival into the world to rescue us. Thank You, Jesus, for revealing God’s extravagant love to us. May our faith be restored and our joy made complete in the hope that is Christmas – the hope that is and always will be Jesus! In the name of our mighty and ever-present Savior I pray. Amen.

Note from Alexis: Cyndi’s devotional reminds me of this song “God is With Us” by Casting Crowns. Listen to it here.

Author Bio:

Cyndi Staudt is a Jesus-loving, adrenaline junkie who is devoted to living her life for Jesus Christ until the day she is living with Him.

With a passion for cultivating a craving for God’s Word, her devotions and Bible studies are saturated with faith and hope to stir your soul to connect with God in deeper, more intimate ways.

Through her writing she hopes to ignite your desire to read God’s Word, invite your heart to experience God’s love, and inspire you to live your live life “souled out” to the One whose love has no limits.

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