Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Immanuel: All He ever wanted was to be God with us

Christmas isn’t about Santa, $5 gift exchanges at endless holiday parties, and elaborate trays of special cookies and candies.

I think we all know that.
Christmas isn’t about family either, though. It’s isn’t the blessing of being together with loved ones. It’s not a child’s eyes as she bursts into the living room on Christmas morning. It’s not dinner around the table with aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents.

I’m not sure we all know that, though.
Perhaps that’s why the holidays disappoint for many year after year. We dread that one relative that will point out everything wrong in our family relationships. We stress over the one child who eagerly tears open the gift only to be upset he didn’t get what he wanted. We worry the table may not look like the pictures on Pinterest. We remember the family members who aren’t with us as bitterness and unforgiveness have pulled us apart.

We invest a lot of time, money, and energy trying to find fulfillment in areas that can’t fulfill. We place expectations on people and situations that can’t live up to them.

So What’s the Point?

Enjoy the blessings of Christmas – the joy of giving, the comfort of a special meal, the connection of beloved family members. You can enjoy these moments when you don’t enter the holiday expecting them to fulfill your dreams of a magical holiday.

We find the joy, the comfort, the connection, and the abundance of blessings when we focus first on Christmas as seen in one biblical word – Immanuel.



It’s a Hebrew word only used a few times in the whole Bible. God inspired Isaiah to call the awaited Messiah by the name Immanuel. Later, Matthew confirmed the fulfillment of the prophecy in his gospel when he wrote of Mary’s baby, Jesus. Matthew wrote, “Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: See, the virgin will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and they will name Him Immanuel” (Matthew 1:22-23).

Immanuel; it translates to English as “God with us.” Hebrew is a pictorial language so sometimes we can see another level of significance in the letter pictures the ancient Hebrews used to form the words. This one has given me reason to sit and reflect as I write this article. The Hebrew shows pictures of a God who experienced chaos, life, and nails. Wow.

You see, God was in heaven enjoying the glory of ultimate, sinless beauty and perfection. Yet, He chose to leave that place of divine triune intimacy and experience the chaos of a world thrown out of whack by sin. He chose to experience life. The experience of life meant He would also experience death because of the permeation of that same sin corruption. He chose to experience the nails pierced through His hands and feet because of the condemnation of sin. He chose to be God with us in the midst of all of our chaos, sin, pain, life, and death.

God with us

That had been the plan all along, though. In the beginning, the plan of God with us didn’t include the chaos, death, and nails brought in by sin. In the beginning, He was God with us in a perfect garden free from the destruction of sin. It was there that God walked with Adam and Eve as they experienced relationship together. However, what was a place of peaceful interaction became a place of fear and hiding as Adam and Eve chose the pleasure of a sinful moment (Genesis 3:8). From the beginning, God desired to be God with us. We blew it.

So God inspired Isaiah to write that the Son of the virgin would be Immanuel. That way He could be God with us once again. Even if being God with us meant joining us in our own chaotic mess of life to experience the nails.
He became God with us in our mess to restore the peaceful interaction of our former garden relationship; to create the opportunity for that relationship once again in the glory of eternity. He became God with us to experience our chaos so that one day we will experience “God’s dwelling is with humanity, and He will live with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will no longer exist; grief, crying, and pain will exist no longer, because the previous things have passed away” (Revelation 21:3-4).

God experienced the chaos, life, and death of the nails so that we wouldn’t have too. He experienced them so that He might remove them from our lives and someday wipe away our tears, grief, and pain. He became God with us so He could be the fulfillment of all our hopes and expectations.
“The Word became flesh and took up residence among us. We observed His glory, the glory as the One and Only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).

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