Continuing our ‘Names of God’ study, we look at Immanuel. This time of year, we sing with a resounding ‘O come, O come Immanuel…” and it is written in beautiful font lettering across our Christmas cards. Immanuel*, meaning ‘God with us.’ Many who attempt to say God is uninterested and doesn’t turn His divine head our way does not understand Immanuel. Whether it is walking in the Garden in the cool of the day (Gen. 3:8) the pillar of fire by night (Ex. 13:22) or sandaled feet in Galilee (Matt. 4:18) or gloriously residing within us (1 Cor. 3:16) The God who dwells with us, among us and in us – God is Immanuel.
Immanuel is first mentioned in Isaiah (chapter 7) within a strong warning to King Ahaz to get his act together in the midst of political uprising and trust that God is with them – but the guy chose poorly. Isaiah prophecies: “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son and will be called Immanuel.” (v14) As we know, God’s people were quite fickle in their love, trust, and obedience, causing them to do what was right AND evil in God’s eyes, they STILL didn’t fully comprehend God’s presence. Fast forward to the New Testament, tucked in the story of the birth of Jesus – Matthew chapter 1. Joseph is about to take Mary as his wife, (according to cultural tradition, the engagement was a done-deal). BUT, she is pregnant (Hm…) he, a good man plans to dissolve the marriage quietly as to not disgrace her. Queue angelic messenger: Joseph is told to take Mary as his wife, the baby she carries is of the Holy Spirit, she will have a Son, and His name will be Jesus because He will save His people from their sins. Matthew gives narrative: “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son and they will call him Immanuel – which means, “God with us.” (vv 22-23)
God was and is with His people throughout history, but sending His Son, slipping Him into human flesh, all He was, all He did, could not be more unmistakably-striking evidence of God’s presence. A sign indeed! God keeps His promises. The All-Powerful, All-Sufficient, Sovereign Creator of the universe does not NEED to be with us – He wants to! This holiday season, as you consider Immanuel, step up, lean in, look to the far left, back to the beginning and then follow the timeline all the way to where YOU now stand and then continue to the right, following the thread into eternity as declared from the heavenly throne, Jesus reveals to John, “the dwelling place of God is with man.” (Revelation 21:3) So beautiful, so comforting – Immanuel.
In Him DeDe, (“Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love & good deeds.” – Hebrews 10:24)
*Why do we often see two spellings for Immanuel? The different spellings ultimately are because of different vowels used in Hebrew (O.T. ‘Immanuel’) and Greek (N.T. ‘Emmanuel’) yet they are indeed the same God presence, just two different languages.