Immanuel – God with us
At Christmas, much of the world pauses to commemorate, in one way or another, the birth of Jesus. Sadly, however, this, the greatest event in history, has been mostly reduced to manger scenes, Christmas trees and coloured lights.
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. NIV
Christmas has become a happy holiday, a family gathering, a brief period of festivity, brightly lit malls and shopping frenzies. Lost is the real message of Christmas which God joyfully proclaimed through angels to all the world that first Christmas – that “Immanuel” had come!
It was the fulfillment of a plan hatched in the midst of the brokenness of Eden, a triumph of God’s love over man’s rebellion, God’s mercy over man’s sinfulness, an incredible testimony of the faithfulness of God. It was God going the ultimate distance in pursuit of man.
Over the course of human history, God has revealed Himself to us by many names – as El-Shaddai (God Almighty), Jehovah Jireh (God our Provider), Jehovah Rophe (God our Healer), Jehovah Nissi (God our Banner), Jehovah Shalom (God our Peace), Jehovah Rohi (God our Shepherd). Through each of these names, God revealed something about Himself, His purpose, His desire, His hopes.
While all of these names are awesome, there is something special about the revelation of God as “Immanuel,” which means “God with us.”
In Immanuel, God was making a personal commitment to every human being that He would be with them, that He would reach out to them, that He would love them no matter what. He was saying to them that He would do anything, go to any length, pay any price to demonstrate His love for them. He was saying that we were that important, that precious to Him.
The message of the angels to the shepherds was that a new day had begun. God had taken the initiative to bridge the gap of sin that had separated us from Him, and that from that day onwards, God Himself would come and be with us. He’ll wash away our sin. He’ll sanctify us and justify us. He’ll cancel the judgment against us. He’ll pour out His Spirit upon us. He’ll walk with us. He’ll talk with us. He’ll bless us and prosper us. He’ll lift every burden and carry every load. We’ll never be alone again.
Not in theory but in practice. Not in the heavens but here on earth. Not from a distance but in us and with us and through us.
The message of the angels was that God Himself will be our friend and counsellor. He will be our strong tower, our mighty fortress, our great shield. He’ll heal our sickness and disease and provide His utmost for our best. And He’ll hear our desperate cries and be there for us.
God with us! God with you! God with me! Forever! What an awesome revelation! We need to cherish and carry that revelation with us long after the Christmas carols have ceased, the coloured lights are switched off and the tinsel taken down. We need to meditate upon it. Confess it. Revel in it.
I don’t know what the new year will bring for you or for me. Trials and challenges might come. There might be anxious moments and perhaps even some desperate days. But, Immanuel has come! God is with us! We can face tomorrow, conquer any challenge, overcome every adversity. We have every reason to rejoice, to feel confident, to be at peace. We can look forward to the new days that He will bring, to the new dreams that He will inspire in us, to the new hope that He will cause to rise up within us.
Immanuel: God with us!
Cherry and I wish you and yours a joyous Christmas as you celebrate the birthday of the Messiah, God’s greatest gift to us. And may you know the promise of His presence, of God with you, in ever increasing ways in the days ahead.