By Joanna Kimbrel
Director of Theology
In the beginning, God was with us.
He walked with us in the garden.
He dwelt among us.
The uninhibited, unrestrained, unimaginable presence of God with us,
And it was very good.
The holy Creator delighted in His good creation–
The man and woman called to bear his glorious image.
But the voice of deception sang a sinister tune that promised joy apart from the Holy One.
Seduced by the serpent's song, they ate the fruit and brought on themselves not a better life,
Fullness of joy in the perfect presence of God was replaced with darkness and shame,
And the Holy God sent them out of the garden and away from the presence of the Lord.
But before He sent them away, He made a promise.
The serpent may have succeeded in his seduction
But God would be victorious.
God would send a redeemer who would crush the head of the deceiver.
God would bring near those who were far off to make them no longer enemies, but children.
God would pursue His people.
In the midst of brokenness, God offered unspeakable hope!
Hope of God with us.
From the moment that the curse of sin infected the hearts of man, God has been working to restore His presence to His people.
He has been working to restore His people to Himself.
The cry of every longing heart echoes with the desire for God with us.
God promised His presence to Abraham in a land of abundance and rest.
He promised Jacob that He would bridge the gap between heaven and earth and give us access to the divine.
Even as the Israelites suffered as slaves in Egypt, God did not stop pursuing them, but His resounding words to Moses were "I will be with you."
God's holy presence descended in judgment upon Egypt, yet he made a way for His people to experience not His wrath, but His mercy.
By the blood of the Passover lamb the presence of God drew near, and they lived.
God led his people out of slavery with His mighty hand,
His presence leading them through the wilderness by cloud and fire.
When The Israelites lived in tents, God drew near and dwelt among them,
But even in the tabernacle access to God was limited, and the only hope for communion with God was an intermediary.
Yet the promise remained: "My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest." (Exodus 33:14).
The promise of God with us.
David longed to build a house worthy of God's holy presence, but God promised a better dwelling place.
A place of perfect righteousness and peace.
A place where God would be with us.
In Solomon's temple the glory of God that consumed like fire on mount Sinai descended and filled the temple as a great cloud,
But even there His people could not freely draw near.
The curse of sin was not eradicated, but infected every corner of creation.
The promise of righteousness and peace in God's presence seemed far off
As God's people were exiled and His temple destroyed.
The permanent dwelling of God was left in ruins.
Was this the end of God with us?
The temple rebuilt gave a glimmer of hope, but it paled in comparison to its former glory.
But this temple was never meant to be the answer.
It pointed to a better temple where God would be with us forever.
For years the people waited in silence and darkness.
Waiting for the promise.
Waiting for God with us.
A Child is born, and to those who walked in deep darkness, separated from God in their sin, God revealed a glorious light.
The Word of God broke through the silence and became flesh, tabernacling among us.
His name is Immanuel–God With Us.
He is the image of the invisible God and the exact imprint of His nature, and those who know Him know the Father.
In His death He tore the veil of the temple and gave us access to God's presence.
He is the Savior who crushes the head of the serpent to rescue us and bring us home.
He is the ladder that brings God's presence down to earth.
He is the Passover Lamb who bears the wrath of God so that we might live in His presence.
He is the Deliverer who frees us from our slavery to sin and separation from God.
He is the Servant who humbles himself and pitches His tent in our midst.
He is the intermediary whose blood gives us access to the throne of grace.
He is the temple where the fullness of God dwells bodily.
He is the promised King from David's line who rules in righteousness and peace.
He is God With Us.
In our union with Christ, God does not live within walls made by human hands, but in us.
In Christ, we are built up as living stones into an unbreakable temple.
In Christ, God dwells in us.
We have experienced the first Advent, but we wait for another.
We wait for the day when the presence of God will be made manifest
And we will see Him face to face.
We wait for the day when Christ will come again and bring down the dwelling place of God at last.
The love of Christ is our hope for perfect joy and peace in God's presence.
Jesus Christ is the hope of God with us.