The Best Part of Christmas Is Immanuel, “God with Us”

In the Old Testament, we read how God kept reaching down to His people: “The Lord…sent word to them through his messengers again and again, because he had pity on his people…But they mocked God’s messengers, despised his words and scoffed at his prophets” (2 Chronicles 36:15-16).

The prophets foretold the coming of Messiah. Yet centuries of oppression and suffering passed, and many lost hope. In every generation there were people like Simeon and Anna who longed for and prayed for Messiah’s coming. And finally, when the Redeemer’s absence became unbearable, He came: “But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman” (Galatians 4:4).

God didn’t stay way off in Heaven, but came down to live among us on Earth, which He had handmade for us to live on. John 1:14 says, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”

God Himself, with Us

Jesus promised His disciples, “I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am” (John 14:3). Do you hear in this verse how much He wants to live with us? After our deaths and before the resurrection, we will live with Him in the present Heaven. But that’s not the end of the story!

Revelation 21:3 says in reference to the New Earth, “God himself will be with his people.” Why does it say God Himself?  Because God won’t merely send us a delegate. He won’t just send down the angel Gabriel to represent Him. He Himself will actually come down from Heaven to live among us on the New Earth.

Since Jesus will be His resurrected self forever, His body will be as perfectly suited for the New Earth. After Jesus had ascended in His body to the present Heaven, the angels said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11). “This same Jesus” will come back “in the same way”? What way? Physically, in His resurrected body, this time to live forever on Earth! (Some believe He will first return to the present earth still under the Curse during a 1,000 year kingdom known as the Millennium; others who are amillennial believe there’s not a literal 1,000 year kingdom on this earth, but that after the return of Christ there is the resurrection and final judgment of Revelation 20 and then the immediate beginning of eternal life on the New Earth.)

Immanuel does not mean “us with God.” It means “God with us.” Where will He be with us? In the eternal home He is preparing for us, and over which He will reign as the eternal God-man.

Heaven Will Be on Earth

It’s sometimes said, “This world is not our home.” It’s true, but it’s a half-truth. We should qualify it to say, “This world—as it now is, under the curse—is not our home.” But we should also say, “This world—as it was originally—was our home.” And we should add, “This world—as it one day will be, delivered from the curse—will be our home.” 

When we die and go to live in the present Heaven, we’ll be with Christ, and we’ll be full of joy. But it won’t be our permanent home. It will be a layover, not our final destination. Those now with the Lord are looking forward to their bodily resurrection and relocation to the New Earth, where Christ will reign forever.

The incarnation of Christmas isn’t temporary; it’s permanent. Christ rose in a glorified human body which He will have forever. It’s not that Jesus became a baby at Christmas, and then 33 years later came the resurrection and ascension and then He suddenly stopped being a man. No, the second member of the triune God will be a human being for all eternity, reigning from a throne on the New Earth. 

Often we think of Heaven as our going up into a disembodied angelic realm to live with God in His place. But the Bible says the ultimate Heaven will be God coming down from Heaven to live with us in our place—the New Earth. That’s the place He’s preparing for us.

We are made for a person and a place. Jesus is the person. Heaven is the place. And the resurrected Jesus will bring Heaven down to the resurrected earth.

Have you ever imagined what it would be like to walk the earth with Jesus, as the disciples did? Have you ever wished you had that opportunity? You will—on the New Earth. Jesus promised we would eat and drink with Him in His Kingdom. To eat a meal with Jesus will be to eat a meal with God, because He is Immanuel, God with us.

The best part of Christmas is not the presents we receive, but the presence of God with us. Christmas means that God loved us so much He came to live with us, and die for us, so that we can live with Him forever.

The Great Reunion Awaits

This will be my first Christmas without Nanci since 1968, the year we met. It will also be her first Christmas in the direct presence of Jesus. Writing that just filled my eyes with tears of overwhelming joy. She is having Christmas with the One it’s named after, with the One who bought our way to Heaven, with the One who is both her best friend, and mine.

It will also be her first Christmas with her mom since 2000! Her first with her dad since 2005. And her first with my mom, with whom she also had a wonderful relationship, since 1980! She and our friends Michele Norquist and Erin Seymour will have their first Christmas with Jesus on the same day. I can see them together now. That fills my heart up.

She always wondered if she had a miscarriage, and if so, she’ll have Christmas with our child I haven’t yet met. We know our daughter had a miscarriage, and I’m sure Nanci has already met our grandchild, and this is their first Christmas together too. She has grandparents and aunts and uncles and people whose lives she impacted and who impacted hers. If not by now, for sure she’ll eventually see Marden and Ruth Wickman, Paul Siwek, Greg Coffey, Jerry Hardin, John Kohlenberger, Leona Bryant, Patti Atkins, Garland and Emma Gabbert, Cal and Helen Hess, Jim and Marguerite Spinks, Bryon and Dorothy Weber, and so many others who were once part of our lives, people we missed, but who Nanci now doesn’t have to miss!

And then, there’s people she may or may not have met yet but whose lives touched hers: Charles and Susannah Spurgeon, Jack (C.S.) and Joy Lewis, Francis and Edith Schaeffer, Keith Green, and the many Puritans she loved to read. I can’t wait for her to introduce me to thousands and thousands of people whose names I’ve only known. What will it be like to meet them face to face and worship Jesus together? What will it be like to be forever with the God whose very name promises He will be with us now and forever?

So, yes, I am sad to not spend Christmas with Nanci, but I am SO, SO HAPPY when I think of her being with her family and friends and the larger family of God who have gone before her. I can honestly say my joy for her outweighs my sadness of having to await my next Christmas with her.

Christ promises He will wipe away all our tears, and there will be no more death or suffering, no final goodbyes. He bought that promise with His blood, so it is not mere wishful thinking—it is written in the stone of eternity. The great reunion awaits me, and if you know Jesus, the great reunion awaits you too.

If you don’t know Him, place your faith in Him right now. If we at this ministry can help you come to know Him, contact us . This could be the last year, month, day, or minute of your life—for certain, one of these years, months, days, or minutes will be. For all who know Him, God will live with you and your spiritual family forever, for now in the present Heaven, and forever on the redeemed earth in the redeemed universe. That’s the best Christmas present anyone could ever receive!

Merry Christmas to you, and all glory to Immanuel, the God who is with us, and will be with us forever. 

Photo by Niklas Ohlrogge on Unsplash

Randy Alcorn (@randyalcorn) is the author of over sixty books and the founder and director of Eternal Perspective Ministries