In order to understand better the lives of friends with disabilities, some have practiced exercises to know what their lives are like. One woman wore a blindfold and allowed herself to be led around by another. Another tried to function throughout the day without speaking. A man tried to navigate unwieldy terrain using only his arms and a wheelchair. By trying to place themselves in someone else’s shoes— or wheelchair—they do end up having a richer appreciation for what their friends’ lives are like.
For reasons wholly divine, God chose to take on human flesh to know what our lives are like. The author of Hebrews confirms that, in His Incarnation, Jesus experienced temptation and suffering and death in order to serve as a faithful high priest on our behalf (Heb. 2:9–18).
Matthew’s Gospel, more than any other, weaves in Old Testament promises that identify Jesus as the Messiah. Here, Matthew confirms the unlikely possibility that had been predicted through the prophet Isaiah—that a virgin would conceive and give birth to a son—had at last been realized in the birth of Jesus (see Isa. 7:14). He would, said Isaiah, bear the name "Immanuel," meaning "God with us."
The name "Immanuel," exalting God’s with-ness, is integral to who God is. This is the one who was with the Hebrew people in the wilderness, in a pillar of fire by night and a cloud of smoke by day. It is the One whose presence moved with His people in the tabernacle. Now, in the skin of Jesus, God has come to earth in order to be fully present to His people. Working and sweating and eating, crying and grieving and suffering, Jesus knows exactly what our lives are like.
Apply the Word
We imitate Jesus’ ministry of incarnation as we move, in love, into the worlds that others inhabit. To whom is God calling you today? Are there ones who would be blessed by your presence among them? Whether you’re called to cross barriers of language, culture, income, or disability, ask God how you might be called to share life with the ones He loves.