In Isaiah 7, the prophet Isaiah approaches King Ahaz, the rebellious king of Judah. He has a word from the Lord: God has promised to rescue Judah from its enemies. Isaiah encourages King Ahaz to request a sign, but Ahaz declines. So, the Lord offers one instead: the virgin will give birth to a son and his name will be Immanuel, which means God with us. In that moment, God offered immediate rescue to Judah and its rebellious king. But hundreds of years later, the gift of Immanuel will mean rescue for all creation!
Names have important meanings. I have a fairly common first name and an admittedly silly last name. Both have meanings. Joshua comes from the Hebrew Yeshua meaning God saves. That’s empowering good news! Pankey, on the other hand, is occupational, derived from the French meaning "pantryman or a butler’s assistant." Some names just mean more than others.
During the Christmas season, it can be easy for meaningful things to become meaningless in the routine of life—just religious jargon that doesn’t grip our hearts. The office Christmas party, the shopping lists, or the endless travel plans all become far more real than the hope we’re invited to celebrate. What’s worse, our experiences in life can make these truths hard to believe. The gift of Immanuel is sometimes hard to receive.
In seasons of sin, it can be easy to think we’re far from God. In seasons of doubt or questions, it’s easy to believe that God is distant. In seasons of anger or frustration, we can think God needs us to calm down or cool off before He returns. At the same time, those seasons can leave us overwhelmed with shame. It becomes so easy to believe that while God may have once been near, He certainly won’t be near now.
How encouraging it is then that in our rebellion, fears, and doubts, God is with us!
From the beginning, God’s great plan has been to be with us. When the first man and woman chose sin, He initiated His great plan of rescue. God the Father sent His Son to draw near to us, so we might be brought near to God. As a result of Jesus’ death and resurrection, the Holy Spirit seals and adopts those who believe into the family of God. At the end of all things, God promises to restore creation and dine with all who believe. His entire work of salvation is a work of drawing near to sinners like you and me.
This is the hope we find in Immanuel, that God could not be closer to us. In your prayer time today, acknowledge God’s presence. Thank Him for being with you in the moment. Acknowledge any doubts or hesitancies you may have in drawing near to Him. Take those to the Father. And in this Christmas season, rejoice and wonder at the beauty and meaning of Immanuel. God is with us.