Immanuel: you remember what that means, right? God is with us. When Matthew tells the story of the birth of Jesus in Matthew 1:18-15, he reminds us that this is a name given to Jesus.
Sometimes we say something so many times, it loses its shock. GOD?! With US?!?
God was with us in the garden. Adam and Eve would walk with him in the cool of the day. But that was before sin. After sin, God walked. Adam hid. They didn’t walk together. They couldn’t! Sin got in the way.
Along the way there would occasionally be someone who trusted God so fully, who followed so closely that they could be described as walking with God. Enoch walked with God—and didn’t die. But as for the rest of humanity, God was no longer “with us.” Not like before, at least.
The prophets were men who walked closer with God than most. And the closer you are to God, the closer you want to be to God. The gap between man and God is so painful to men of God. Isaiah wrote, “Your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God.” (Isaiah 59:2) Jeremiah said, “Your iniquity have turned these away, and your sins have kept good from you.” (Jeremiah 5:25)
Fortunately for us, the prophets weren’t the only ones grieved by the distance between man and God. God himself was grieved. He didn’t create us to abandon us. He wanted relationship with us. It gives him no pleasure to pronounce judgment on us.
So God gave instructions to the prophets. He told Isaiah to tell the people, “The Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14) He gives us a glimmer of hope that God and man can be together again. He gave Ezekiel, the prophet in exile, a picture of a perfect city. Instead of naming that city “Eden” or “Jerusalem” or even “Burns,” the last words of the book of Ezekiel are brimming with hope: “And the name of the city from that time on shall be, ‘the Lord is there.’” (Ezekiel 48:35)
God with us. That’s Immanuel. That’s what happened in Bethlehem. God came down, to be with us. He crossed the lines and became one of us to save us. He came to be with us so we could be with him. Jesus is good news!
Against the backdrop of war-torn Europe, Helmut Thielicke wrote these words about Immanuel:
“Jesus Christ did not remain at base headquarters in heaven, receiving reports of the world’s suffering from below and shouting a few encouraging words to us from a safe distance. No, he left the headquarters and came down to us, in the front-line trenches, right down to where we live and worry about what the enemy may do, where we contend with our anxieties and the feeling of emptiness and futility, where we sin and suffer guilt, and where we must finally die. There is nothing that he did not endure with us. He understands everything.”
Jesus is good news. God himself is with us!