“‘Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Emmanuel,’ which translated means, ‘God with us’” Matthew 1:23.
Emmanuel…God with us. Wow. That just blows my mind. God with us. God Himself. The Most High God, Sovereign Ruler and Creator of all that is, who exists outside of time and whose power knows no limits. Radiant in glory. Spotless and Holy. Worshipped by angels. Feared by darkness. Incomprehensible. Uncontainable. This God, He took the initiative to come to us.
He saw the terrible mess we are in. Death and destruction trump life and order. Hatred and violence fill the planet. Pain infects every heart. Suffering touches every life. Creation itself groans under the weight of our condition (Rom 8:22). All because of a choice made thousands of years ago. A choice to exalt self and be our own gods. And since that fateful day in the garden of Eden (Gen 3), each person ever born has been infected with the disease of sin. We’re born with it (Rom 5:19). We choose it (Isa 53:6). And it breeds all kinds of wickedness and destruction in this world we call home.
God knew we needed a Savior. In fact, He knew we would need a Savior even before He created mankind (Eph 1:4). So He wrote the plan for our redemption. He would send a Rescuer – not a representative, but God the Son. He would take on human flesh, with its frailties and limitations. He would know human pain, experience human suffering. The pain of a broken heart – He felt it. The agony of loss – He experienced it. The humiliation of betrayal – He bore it. Sickness, hunger, temptation, exhaustion…He knew them all. He lived the whole range of human emotion. He became like us, so we could become like Him.
He would do what we couldn’t do – live a life of sinless perfection (2 Cor 5:21). He would pay the penalty for sins He didn’t commit. He would experience the final human reality…death. But it would not, could not, contain Him. Like a victor bursting through the finish line ribbon, He rose to life, never to experience death again (Heb 7:27).
So this Baby in a manger that we celebrate tomorrow…that was why He came. To do all that for us out of immeasurable love (Eph 3:17-19). To be “God with us.” To walk among us so that He might redeem us.
But there’s another facet to this name Emmanuel. He was “God with us” during His physical life on earth. But when He ascended to Heaven, He left His Spirit here to indwell the hearts of His followers (Jn 16:7). So, even today, 2000 years after the first Christmas, He is still our Emmanuel,”God with us.”
And that makes all the difference in my life here on earth. Because God is with me through His indwelling Spirit, I have victory over sins that once controlled me. I have hope when life feels hopeless. I have peace when life is not peaceful. I have strength when I am weak. I have wisdom when I feel clueless. I can be whole when my life is broken. I can have joy when life hurts. I have a Friend that sticks closer than even flesh and blood (Prov 18:24). He will never leave or forsake me (Heb 13:5). He is the ultimate satisfaction of every need I will ever face. Because He is Emmanuel, God with us. This is the wonder of Christmas.