Immanuel. This is the name that Jesus is referred to in Matthew 1:23, quoting Isaiah 7:14. Immanuel means, “God with us.” After reading the genealogy of Jesus, you begin to realize that God has been busy carrying out his plans from the Garden. Every name in the genealogy is part of God’s unfolding plan. These names in the genealogy remind us that history is not just a list of dates and people, but history is moving somewhere. History is leading us not so much to a destination as a person…Jesus! Jesus is the fulfillment of the Abrahamic promise of descendants. Jesus is also the fulfillment of the Davidic promise for a descendant of David to rule over Israel. In Jesus all of Israel’s hopes come to fruition.
For a people who had been slaves in Egypt, only to be rescued by a deliverer, the coming of God through the birth of Jesus would have been a reminder that God hadn’t forgotten them. Nor would he. For a people who had been sent into exile for their idolatry and adultery, the proclamation that virgin would be with child and the baby would called Immanuel would have resonated deep in their souls igniting a hope and a hunger that had begun to be quenched by yet another foreign power calling the shots in their homeland. The coming of Immanuel was bigger than just the eventual overthrow of Rome. The announcement of God with us speaks to the human condition. Jews may have been the nation of promise. But God was orchestrating his plan to reconcile all mankind in and through the baby yet still in the womb of the Galilean girl named Mary.
Messianic expectation was a fever pitch in the time of the birth of Jesus. Many Jews expected a religious and military hero, one like David to come and conquer Rome. Jesus was the messiah of untraditional expectations. While the king of the Jews was indeed born to a peasant family and placed in manger, there is nothing royal or powerful about his arrival. Immanuel’s arrival reminds us that it isn’t to the powerful to dictate the affairs of the world. God often uses the ordinary and unnoticed to demonstrate his incomparably great power and wisdom. Notice, Immanuel means, “God with us,” not “God used to be with us,” or “God isn’t with us.” Immanuel is about the ongoing presence of God in and through history.
Immanuel, “God with us,” is present to the broken. God is present to the lonely. God is present to the weak. God is present to heartbroken. God is present to the desperate. God is with the sinner, the shepherd, the foreigner, the destitute, the vulnerable, the sick and the slave. God is with us. Yes, even you. Whatever your yesterday was, God is the God of second chances and hope and healing. The creator of the universe became a helpless baby to demonstrate how far he will go to remind us that he is with us! Merry Christmas!