Regarding the birth of Christ, Matthew records, “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: ‘Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).’” (Matthew 1:22-23 ESV)
Familiarity with the Christmas story and the popular chorus by that name may anesthetize us to the awesome truth that Immanuel conveys.
Grasping the implications of this name begins with pondering its first element in Matthew’s translation of it—“God.” This name relates to the Creator of the universe, the One who guides the course of history, the ultimate Judge, the Deity described by Isaiah as follows:
It is he who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers; who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them like a tent to dwell in; who brings princes to nothing, and makes the rulers of the earth as emptiness. (Isaiah 40:22-23 ESV)
This brings us to the second element of the name Immanuel—“with us.”
Through the birth of Jesus, the God/man this indescribable God has forever joined Himself with humanity. In that sense He is one of us. He is inseparably linked to the human race.
As a result of this ontological union, God also is with us in the sense of His presence. This refers to more than God’s omniscience, the fact that He is everywhere. Rather, it connotes that His is with us in a personal sense, that we are an inescapable aspect of His interests and concerns.
This Christmas, as we celebrate the birth of Jesus, of Immanuel, we can rejoice that His entrance into the world initiated an indissoluble and profound linkage of the God of the universe with humanity.