CNHI News Service
According to recent statistics from the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association (APPMA) 69 million households own a pet. The survey reveals ownership includes 73 million dogs, 90 million cats, 139 million freshwater fish, 9 million saltwater fish, 16 million birds, 18 million small animals and 11 million reptiles.
"The steady increase in pet ownership confirms that a growing number of us are realizing pets truly enhance our lives," said Bob Vetere, managing director and COO of APPMA. "Pets not only provide unconditional love and affection, research now shows they also provide significant health benefits."
It is an obvious conclusion that most of us seek affection, nurturing and unconditional love from our pets. There is something in our DNA that seeks relationship and intimacy. Pets provide this on an emotional level.
However, God provided this on a spiritual level when He sent His son, Jesus Christ, born in a stable in Bethlehem thousands of years ago. He sent Jesus as Immanuel, God with us, to bridge the gap between heaven and earth that was caused by sin. He instituted relationship, unconditional love, intimacy, and healing with the coming of Immanuel. God provided an opportunity for us to fellowship with our creator and an opportunity to feel the love and mercy of a forgiving, faithful God.
Too many times in the church world God has been presented as a harsh, demanding, legalistic entity who was far away and only concerned with the performance of His distant subjects. This is not God at all! God is the creator who came down daily in the cool of the evening to fellowship with Adam and Eve. He is a God of nurturing, affection, fellowship and healing. He is a God of unconditional love who invites us to a personal relationship of spiritual intimacy with Him.
The Hebrew name, Immanuel, occurs in the Old Testament and in the New Testament. "Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel. NIV Isaiah 7:14.
In the New Testament in Matthew 1:22-23 we find “ Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet "BEHOLD, THE VIRGIN SHALL BE WITH CHILD AND SHALL BEAR A SON, AND THEY SHALL CALL HIS NAME IMMANUEL," which translated means, "GOD WITH US."
God with us is an amazing phrase! No longer do we live under an old covenant of laws and judgments. With the coming of Immanuel, His death, burial and resurrection 33 years later, came a New Covenant of hope, relationship, unconditional love and access to the spiritual realm of eternity.
Christmas is a time to celebrate our love of family and friends but it is most of all a time to celebrate the God who loved us so much that He became one of us. He is Immanuel, God with us, forever.