On Christmas Eve in 1968, Apollo VIII became the first manned vehicle to circle the moon. Because it was nearly Christmas, the 3-man crew was asked to say something appropriate to mark their historic mission. From thousands of miles in outer space, Genesis 1:1-10 was broadcast to earth: “In the beginning God . . .” In his autobiography Countdown, Frank Bowman, one of the three Apollo VIII astronauts, explains why they read from the Scriptures: “There was one more impression we wanted to transmit: our feeling of closeness to the Creator of all things.”

Judah was threatened by an Israel-Syria alliance (Isaiah 7:1-2). Assured of God’s presence, power, and protection, the prophet Isaiah told King Ahaz, “This invasion will never happen” (Isaiah 7:4-9). But Ahaz was required to trust in the Lord. God invited Ahaz to ask for a sign to confirm His promise of deliverance. The king refused, for he wasn’t interested in trusting God (Isaiah 7:10-12). Instead, he turned to Assyria for help (2 Kings 16:5-9). Ahaz placed his hope of salvation in human power rather than in the power of almighty God.

Even so, God offered Ahaz a sign: “Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God is with us’)” (Isaiah 7:14). “Immanuel” speaks of a powerful God who seeks to draw near to His people. At a critical moment in Judah’s history, Ahaz refused to trust in the One who could truly save him.

God’s promise of His presence is for us too. And Christmas declares that God’s promise is fulfilled (Matthew 1:22-23). This Christmas, let’s make the promise personal, declaring, “Immanuel—God is with me!”

NLT 365-day reading plan passage for today: Titus 3:1-11