God being with his people is a common biblical theme. You can trace it through Genesis, with mankind enjoying God in the garden, then being cast out. Exodus begins with the people enslaved, and ends with God dwelling in the middle of the camp.
But God being in a tent is one thing. The rules and procedures to get through to him, the one man who could approach him – God living in a tent, and then the temple, was only a glimpse of life in the garden.
And finally, we hear the promise longed for since the man and the woman were cast out of the garden. Through Isaiah, God speaks to the wicked king Ahaz:
‘Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel’ (Isaiah 7:14).
In this child to be born, God would be ‘Immanuel’, meaning ‘God with us. In this child to be born, once again God would walk with his people. We wouldn’t be separated from him by veils or altars or priests. He would be with us, walking and talking with us.
And finally, the child was born. God in the flesh, walking among an unclean and sinful people. Yet he won’t break out in judgement. Instead, he’ll show them mercy.
This God in the flesh will show compassion to the poor and sick. He’ll preach of the coming kingdom, and will raise the dead. But most importantly, he will go to the cross. Rather than coming in judgement on us, he’ll face the judgement of his Father for us.
And because of his death and resurrection, those who trust in him are guaranteed an eternity with God. Everlasting life, with our everlasting God. Because of Christmas, and Easter, those cast out can be welcomed back into his presence.