Immanuel: God With Us
I remember wondering what that funny-sounding word meant. To my young ears, it was almost as ridiculous as having to sit through the late Christmas Eve service, when all I wanted was to open presents and devour the candy I knew was awaiting me at home. It didn’t sound jolly the way they sang the word. It was dreary and dull and lacking the magic that I believed in at Christmas. It was almost as difficult to say the word as it was to sit still on the hard pews and wait for the long-winded pastor to wrap up his Christmas message. Why was this word important? Years passed and I came to understand that the word, “Immanuel” meant “God with us”, which was still a fairly odd thought to wrap my brain around. I looked around the room at the adults singing, most were looking at their watches and rubbing their bellies just as I was. I was sure this word couldn’t be life-changing, but I still sang the words because I feared being scolded, or worse, not making it onto the “nice” list. Eventually, I finally realized that the excitement was about all of the ancient prophecies coming true at once— with Jesus. I wasn’t able to understand, never mind articulate, the Trinity yet, though I’d heard it described as an apple analogy with a core, flesh, and skin. Surely God was more complex than this simple explanation, and though I couldn’t grasp it fully, I was beginning to become aware of God in my own life. That Christmas when I whispered the words to the old hymn, my heart was warm and happy. Finally, it clicked: Jesus came for us. For me. I closed my eyes and sung the word like I’d found a treasure. Jesus came, for me. Not because I deserved it, or wanted, or even asked Him to. He came because I needed Him, even if I was only beginning to understand how much. He came to be with us. With me. With me in my fickle-hearted moments. With me when all I wanted was to be away from Him. With me in my greatest moments of devotion and faith, as well as my darkest days of doubt and despair. With me in the good, the bad, and the awful. With me because He wanted to be. Not because I’ve earned His presence, having done anything in the past, or promised anything of value for the future. He isn’t needy and doesn’t yearn for my approval or affection. He came because of His love, for me. His love that knew no other way to get to me than to give up His crown, His throne, His place of splendor in order to walk with men. He came, choosing a lowly beginning, and an excruciating end because His love was so great. And so, when God the Father couldn’t stand it any longer, at just the right time, He sent His Son. God altered history forever, by sending Jesus. For us. What a gift.