The Best of All
“The best of all is, God is with us.”
I grew up in the family of a Methodist pastor. When I went to grad school, it was at a Methodist seminary. For those unfamiliar with the history of the Methodist movement, it began with the intense devotional life of a man named John Wesley. After a career in ministry that frustrated him, he had a near-death experience at sea and later, after a period of prayer and reflection, finally committed his life to Jesus in earnest. He was famous for his rigorous daily routines and discipline, and those who joined with him were teased for how methodical they were in their faith. Thus, Methodism. You should read more about him, and read the sermons and studies he wrote. Moving on.
John Wesley died in his old age. The night he commended his soul to the Lord, his health rallied just long enough for him to wake and say to those in the room with him, “The best of all is: God is with us.”
I grew up with that story, and it always fascinated me how John Wesley felt God’s presence in our midst was so profoundly important, that even on his deathbed, that was what he was thinking about.
And that is what we are thinking about today. The birth of Jesus was foretold by Isaiah long before the Gospels were written down. Famously, the Christ was known as “Emmanuel,” which means, “God with us.”
Stop for a moment and think about that.
I’m serious. Stop what you’re doing, and think about it. Just for a moment.
“God with us.”
As important as our freedom in Christ is, as earth-shattering is his redemptive sacrifice on the cross and his resurrection, so to is his very life--that Christ is God’s very presence in our midst to remind us that not only will he save us, but that he will stand alongside us.
Christ will never stand on the shore and throw you a rope to pull you back in; instead, He will swim into the depths and fight the current with you until, in His arms, you are brought to safety. We do not serve a god who sits upon a throne that we cannot approach in our time of need. We serve a Savior who left his throne to find us in our need before we even knew what we needed.
And the best of all is, God is with us today.
It was not an event that ended long ago. It is an event that has never ended. God is with us still. When we grieve. When we rejoice. When we fail. When we overcome. When we are angry, disappointed, hurt. When we are happy, fulfilled, and blessed. When we sin. When we resist temptation.
Tonight, we’ll gather with family and friends and enjoy our time together. We’ll share food and drink, exchange gifts and stories. Most of us will laugh. Some of us might cry. All of it will beautiful.
But as you look on those moments and see all the people and things in your life, remember also the one whose birth we celebrate, whose presence has remained steadfast, and who walks beside us still.
Let us remember the best of all.
May y’all have a wonderful and blessed Christmas, and a fantastic New Year.
Joel Elliott Mooneyhan