Matthew 1:21-23 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 fulfil what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel that is, God with us.

Advent is the season when we prepare for the birth of the Messiah, it is from the world’s perspective a forgotten season – since they have forgotten the meaning of Christmas, there is little reason to prepare for it, so they try to celebrate peace on earth and everyone love each other, and the only reason anyone should attempt such things is – to not try is a sure way for you to be labeled a scrooge, which is not a good thing. And this is one reason why Islam is growing – they take God seriously, and you can hear them speaking of how God is with them.

You see, while we may pay lip service to "Emmanuel, God with us," it doesn’t seem to mean much, at least by outward appearances – it doesn’t seem to change or effect our lives in any significant way. And you don't have to look far to see that most of the other religions also talk about God with them. This is part of why people are confused – part of the popular observance of God with us, are the items people wear that say WWJD – that is what would Jesus do? The thought is that if we would ask this question we would make the right choices, do what pleases God, and avoid sin.

And this is why we are sometimes labeled as hypocritical, because while we agree on the principal, we do not seem to apply it uniformly to all of life – and the Muslims regularly teach that it must be applied to all of life – because God is watching, and all people will be judged by their actions. And that is how Islam is just like all the other religions in the world – they all teach salvation by works – only Christianity teaches salvation by grace through faith in Christ.

You see, we are all sinners, no one is righteous – so if God is with us, the chief thing we learn about God is judgement – we may try to be good out of fear of judgement, but there is no hope, no comfort and no peace. A god of judgment with us is not something we crave, and so it is no wonder that we don’t very excited about preparing to meet him – because when we look in our heart, we know we are not worthy.

So why prepare? Not only does Christianity teach salvation by grace through faith in Christ – but when it speaks of God with us, it tells us what kind of God it is who is with us – it is the God who saves. Every other religion you sacrifice to God so that he might do good things for you, but in Christ we see God who comes and sacrifices himself for poor miserable sinners. We see God who left the perfection of paradise to come to earth, to live as a man among us, to suffer as we suffer, and to bring us life and salvation. This is the God of love – not that he loves our sins, but he does love us enough to die for our sins, so that he might offer us life and salvation.

It is the love of God in Christ, that not only changes us, but makes us want to prepare for the coming of such a wondrous gift. This is why we have Advent, and remembering these things is how we prepare for Christmas.