The word Immanuel appears in in chapters 7-8 of the Book of Isaiah and in Matthew 1:22-23. It is a Hebrew word meaning God with us.
In Exodus 33:20 Moses was explicitly told by God ‘You cannot see my face. No one can see me and live’.
Who is God? He is the high and lofty one who inhabits eternity.
How is He with us?
At a practical and unusual time in history God came to be with us himself. The high and lofty became lowly and humble and helpless. He put himself at the mercy of a young teenager who was engaged to be married. That in itself made things a little complicated.
Don’t look up, God said to Moses. Now the shepherds are looking down at him wrapped in cloths that came from who knows where and laying in a bed of hay. His name shall be called Jesus.
This event changed the course of history. We date our letters and checks, our children’s birth and loved one’s death by what happened so many years ago. It has impacted art, literature, political institutions and our understanding about ourselves. While he never wrote a book or a song, libraries of the world could not hold the books written about him. He has inspired more songwriters to write about him than any other theme.
While many of our Christmas traditions stem from pagan rituals it has evolved into a celebration that resonates around the world. The lit-up streets and homes, the carolers, the food, cards and presents; the world is telling a story.
One of my favorite memories of Christmas other than the excitement of receiving gifts as a child was Christmas Eve 1995. Our family attended the Christmas Eve Service at St. John the Evangelist Church on St James Street and Wellington. The church was built in 1888. Its tree lined walk, gothic stained glass windows, among them to the west wall was one honoring those who served in the war; The pipe organ and the choir created a spectacular atmosphere of celebrating the season. I will never forget the message given that evening. The minister talked about the Christ and the manger and the one quote that has stayed with me all these years; ‘The manger is within.’ As we left the service the 14 bell Carillon rang out the news at midnight, as large flakes of snow came gently falling on the evergreens. It was Christmas Day!!
The story of Christmas was re-birthed in me on that occasion in a way that I had not previously experienced it.
The word became human and made his home among us. John 1:14 NLT
No one has ever seen God. But the unique One, who is himself God, is near to the Father’s heart. He has revealed God to us. John 1:18 NLT
It’s the face of the one who was born that night that the world has been haunted by for some 20 centuries. Immanuel: God with us.