As he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 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).

  • Matthew 1:20-23

It’s amusing to see the ways children imitate parents, whether they intend to or not. When they’re young, little girls try on their mother’s prettiest dresses and little boys try and wear their dad’s tool belt. Kids imitate their parents’ laughs and sometimes even the way they walk. How many times have you caught yourself doing something you’ve seen your parents do? But as we get older, the imitation decreases with our proximity to our parents. You can’t as easily imitate from a distance.

This is why, after His resurrection, Jesus promised us the Holy Spirit as our ever-present help and God’s presence in our lives. When we receive Christ, we invite the work of the gospel to transform our lives. This transforming work is done by the Holy Spirit, who dwells in us. The proximity of God’s presence and the nearness of His Word—His love letter to us—give us access and the ability to imitate our heavenly Father. Even children who once were far off, rebellious, and unwilling to follow in their Father’s steps are brought near because of Jesus and are given the capacity to live according to their new identities in Christ—as sons and daughters of God.

If the idea of Emmanuel—God with us—blows your mind, it should. But more stunning than even the birth of Christ is the mystery of the Savior’s presence forever with us, wherever we go, through the Spirit. God with us wasn’t one event on Christmas Day or one lifetime in the 33 years that Jesus walked the earth. God with us is forevermore in the lives of those who receive Him as Savior and King. Do you see how God’s promise of rescue far outshines a candlelight service or a season of festivities? When we prepare Him room at Christmas, we make room for a lifetime in His presence. Jesus doesn’t want our partial attention during the month of December; He wants our hearts every day of every year. He wants us to be transformed.

Change can and will happen right where you are when you abide in Christ. To abide means to dwell with Him as He dwells in you. Change happens when we imitate Christ. And you know what? He is our only perfect example. The fruit of redemption is not a better set of circumstances or an improved outlook; it is a changed life. This is God’s promise of redemption. When we become recipients of this promise, we are not only transformed in our true identities, we are given an entirely new eternal family to belong to.

The true gift of Jesus is the invitation to become sons and daughters in the kingdom of God. We are no longer enemies or fearful outsiders, but heirs with Christ, who have been brought near. We were made to reflect Him, and He is worthy of that imitation.

So rejoice! In Christ, we’ve been restored to the fellowship we were made for with our heavenly Father—a restoration planned by God in eternity past, and fulfilled in Jesus, the promised Messiah.

So as we celebrate this Christmas as parents who long to instill the wonder of Emmanuel in our children’s lives, let us dazzle them with the nearness of God…by drawing near to Him, ourselves. More than any activity, holiday treat, or gift under the tree, it’s the presence of a God who dwells with us as we abide in Him…that will make all the difference in our families, day after day, year after year. Moms and dads, let’s find our hope in Christ, first, so that we might spread the wonder of Emmanuel—God with us—this Christmas season.