What do you know about the word Immanuel?
You likely know that it means “God with Us.” You probably know it comes from a prophecy in the book of Isaiah (7:14) and is attributed later in the Gospel of Matthew (1:23) as being fulfilled through the birth of Jesus.
Undoubtedly, you’ve sung the word in Christmas carols and hymns (“O Come, O Come Emmanuel” was a part of all three of our services this past Sunday). Finally, you might know that Immanuel is a Hebrew word that was later Romanized into the spelling Emmanuel. Both spellings are used interchangeably today.
However, if your understanding of Immanuel is simply that God came down in the form of a baby and thus “was with us” through Jesus, there is a great amount of history being left out.
You see, the concept of Immanuel is much more pervasive and core to Scripture than simply a verse in Isaiah and a verse in Matthew. The very real desire of God and the created purpose of man to commune together starts in the earliest chapters of Genesis and extends through the last chapter in Revelation:
No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.” (22:3-5)
To see and consider just how fundamental Immanuel is to the story of redemption and salvation as well as to the encouragement of the saints sojourning the path to our promised land that Christ left to prepare for us, set aside some intentional time to read through this beautiful article from Don Johnson Evangelistic Ministries. It has some length to it, but I could not have crafted a more succinct overview while encompassing such a fullness of Immanuel in Scripture if I tried.
God’s Desire to Dwell with His People
What we find from Scripture is that God has always found a way to dwell among His people. And ever since the Fall, His desire and Will to have communion with His people has become ever more intimate and ever more sacrificial. He dwelled in a tabernacle during the Exodus to show the way to the promised land and to continually reassure His people that He was with them and they were on the right path though the journey was very long.
He then came closer to us still by entering into a new tabernacle: the human body through Christ.
He felt our weaknesses, our flesh, our struggles. He ultimately bore them all and the sins they contained through the Cross. After His resurrection and ascension, His tabernacle with His people changed more intimately again. He now indwells the very bodies of those that believe, through the Holy Spirit.
Finally, through the Scripture passage from Revelation above we find that the ultimate intimate, full, and complete communion will occur when we reach our Promised Land in the new Heaven and new Earth. We will commune together without the curse afflicting our relationship, clouding our eyes, and limiting our perspective. We will see God face to face. His presence will be our very light!
So that is the promise of Scripture, from the very beginning to the very end. God will be with His people. And the cost that takes has been entirely paid for and made possible by God (the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit).
We, brothers and sisters, are like the Israelites wandering in the desert during the Exodus. Without the indwelling of God, we stand no chance of making the Promised Land. But take courage! God was faithful to the Israelites and through the sending of His Son to earth. Jesus was faithful through the Cross and the sending of the Spirit.
So we now find assurance and strength through the Spirit’s faithfulness that He will lead us to where Christ is currently preparing our permanent home.
That’s what Christmas really symbolizes. A celebration of the ever more intimate Immanuel. Our forefathers rejoiced in anticipation of a prophecy foretold and in the remembrance of a tabernacle where God dwelled. We celebrate all the more at what the fulfillment of that prophecy means to our journey toward our final home. Perfect Immanuel awaits us at our destination. That’s the joy of Christmas! What a joy it is!
Rejoice with me about Emmanuel through this new Christmas song