Published December 22, 2009

Paul's Epistle...

During the Advent season we frequently are reminded of those cherished Scriptures which foretold our Lord's birth.

Isaiah was especially blessed to foretell prophetically numerous facts about Jesus' birth which would come true roughly seven centuries later. For example, Isaiah 7:14: "Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel." In Isaiah 9:6, the prophet further refers to Christ by these familiar descriptive names: "Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace."

Much later, after Christ's ministry on earth, Matthew quotes Isaiah's prophecy: "Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us." (Matthew 1:23.)

Interestingly, of all of the names used by Isaiah, only "Emmanuel" appears in the same context in the New Testament (spelled with an "E" rather than an "I," but the same name). Perhaps that's because the meaning of the name is the most astonishing thing about what we routinely refer to as the incarnation. It is nothing less than God "sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh." (Romans 8:3.) God was "manifest in the flesh." (1 Timothy 3:16.)

That's why Jesus could be called, "Emmanuel," a name for which Matthew conveniently provides the meaning: "God with us." Jesus was literally God with us in the form of a man. That's why He could say, "he that hath seen me hath seen the Father." (John 14:9.) Jesus was fully God, yet fully man. (Only God can figure out how to do that.)

Emmanuel — "God with us." Of all the names used to describe Christ, this is perhaps the most amazing. This is the most remarkable. This is the most unfathomable.

Perhaps — just perhaps — we are too familiar with the Christmas story. Perhaps, having heard it again and again and again since our youngest years, we are not nearly as astonished as we should be by the incarnation — the fact that God, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Creator of the universe and everything that is, chose to dwell for a time in the form of a man among us.

But there's even more to this name, "Emmanuel."

If we accept that Christ was, indeed, God incarnate (which is, of course, a pillar of Christian faith), it's not hard to understand or accept the premise that God was, in fact, "with us" when Christ was walking those Judean hillsides — preaching, teaching, healing and having fellowship with His followers and others.

But let's not stop there. Do you recall what Jesus told His disciples after His resurrection and before His ascension? He told them, "Remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age." (Matthew 28:20 NRSV.)

Wait a minute. Wasn't Jesus about to leave? Wasn't He returning to His Father in heaven? He would no longer physically be with His disciples. Then, what's this about being with us always?

The writer to the Hebrews, speaking of Christ, reminded his hearers, "He hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee." (Hebrews 1:25.) What does that mean? It means, even though Jesus is no longer with us physically, He is still with us.

How do we know?  Because He promised He would be.
How do we know?  Because we can feel His presence if we allow ourselves to do so.
How do we know?  Because, as any saved youngster can testify, "He lives in my heart."

Jesus is still Emmanuel. He is still "God with us." That name, that description has never been rescinded. The whole reason God created us in the first place was for fellowship. God walked with Adam and Eve in the garden and loved every minute of it. He didn't just create us and then go away, leaving us to our own devices (as some errant "theologians" have suggested). He wants (and deserves) our love. He wants to be "with us" always. He wants to be Emmanuel for us today.

Christ wants to be Emmanuel for you in your marriage.
Christ wants to be Emmanuel for you in your employment.
Christ wants to be Emmanuel for you in your family life.
Christ wants to be Emmanuel for you in your social life.
Christ wants to be Emmanuel for you in school.
Christ wants to be Emmanuel for you in your retirement.
Christ wants to be Emmanuel for you in your pain and your trials.
Christ wants to be Emmanuel for you in your times of rejoicing.
Christ wants to be Emmanuel for you when you're otherwise all by yourself. (In fact, that's often when we can best listen for His still, small voice.)
Christ wants to be Emmanuel for you all day, every day — "God with you" every moment, ready to help, ready to counsel, ready to guide, ready to encourage, ready to love you.

Look at that phrase "God with us" this way:

First, "GOD with us." It's no one less than the Almighty Creator Himself.
"God WITH us." He's not off somewhere else, He's right here with us.
"God with US." He's here with you and me. Think of it! He's with us!

Is Christ "Emmanuel" for you today? If so, you can be confident that someday, perhaps very soon, He will be "Emmanuel" for you in an even more profound realization of that term.

Remember, Christ promised His followers, "I will come again and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also." (John 14:3.) When that happens, you will see Him face to face in His glory. You will be with Him forever, and He will be with you. Then you'll know the fullest realization of "Emmanuel." Then you'll see how much God truly, truly loves and cherishes the fulfillment of that name that He chose for Himself, "God with us."

Praise God!

- Paul

(Originally published Dec. 2004)

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