The Promise of Immanuel
Navajo Nativity Scene
“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us)” (Matthew 1:23).
Of all the names of Christ, perhaps none is more significant than Immanuel because it tells us his true identity. He is God come down from heaven in the form of a tiny baby boy. Theologians call this the “Incarnation,” a term that means “to take on human flesh, to be born as a human.” John 1:14 tells us the Word (that is, Christ) became flesh and lived among us. The Word (who was God, see John 1:1) wrapped himself in human flesh. The Son of God descended from heaven to earth and wrapped himself in the frail body of a tiny Jewish baby in a stable, in the little town of Bethlehem, in a forgotten corner of the Roman Empire. Don Skinner says it very neatly: “God did not send Christ to us; God came to us in Christ.”
Jesus Christ is God in the flesh. That tiny, helpless baby is the God who created the universe. He came from “his side” to “our side” without ever leaving “his own side.” What a stupendous, mind-blowing miracle that is. No wonder when John Wesley lay dying in 1791, he roused from his sleep long to open his eyes and exclaim, “The best of all is, God is with us!” Then he closed his eyes and died.
We need that truth more than ever at Christmastime. This is a lonely time of year for many people. In the midst of the laughter, there is pain and sadness and reminders of broken relationships. Some family reunions are like war zones, and much of the drinking that is done is not so much drinking because we are happy but drinking to cover our pain. Many people feel exhausted and stressed out as the big day approaches. During this season, we need to be reminded the Lord knows all about our troubles.
We can say it more forcefully than that. Jesus knows what others do not know about you. He knows all the hidden secrets, the inner fears, and the unspoken doubts about what tomorrow may bring.
He knows the whole truth about you and me, and he loves us anyway.
Father, we thank you that when we were far gone in sin and hopelessly lost, you came to us in the person of your Son, Jesus Christ. You clothed your Son with human flesh so that he might be our Savior. May the joy of heaven fill our hearts on this happy Christmas Eve. This we pray in the name of Immanuel, God with us, the Lord Jesus Christ, Amen.
Musical bonus: What would we say to Jesus as he entered our world? How would we explain how much we need him? Michael W. Smith offers his answer in Welcome to Our World.
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