The name “Immanuel,” applied to Jesus by the writer of the gospel of Matthew, reveals one of the most distinctive and powerful beliefs of the Christian faith. Jesus is God With Us.
This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife,because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son,and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means“God with us”). Matt 1:18-23
Jesus is God.
The strange and confronting claim of Christmas is that Jesus was not just a human baby, but God come in human form. This is fundamental to everything about who he is, what he does, and why he does it.
It also means that if we want to know what God is like, we just need to look at Jesus.
God doesn’t remain distant - he comes near.
And God is not unknowable - he has shown himself to us!
For many people, Jesus looks quite different to how we have always imagined or thought of God. But in Jesus we see God’s radical love, mercy, kindness, goodness and sacrifice. But we also see something else…
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory,the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.(John testified concerning him. He cried out, saying, “This is the one I spoke about when I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’”) Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given.For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known. John 1.14-18
Jesus is with us.
When he was a human, Jesus was ‘with us’ in the sense that he was ‘spatially located’ with us. But this name means much more than that!
Jesus is not just ‘with’ us, he’s with us. Meaning… he’s on our side.
He’s joined the human race. He has known the human experience. He has felt human emotions. He is ‘in it’ with us.
He is for us.
When God became a human, born to a poor couple, a teenage mother from a dead-end town - he aligned himself with the poor, the vulnerable, and the marginalised of this world.
When he faced temptation, when he suffered and died - Jesus joined himself to the suffering and broken of this world.
He knows and understands us. He loves and accepts us.
Immanuel. God with us.
If God looks like Jesus, what is God like?
What do you like or admire about Jesus?
Do you believe these things about God?
Do you believe that God is ‘on your side’, ‘on your team’, that God is ‘for’ you?
What difference does it make that God joins in our humanity - both good and bad, joy and pain, celebration and suffering?
Where do you need God ’on your side’ at the moment?
Pray that you would know his presence, his strength, and his grace.
Light the Candle.
As you light the candle, one of you might like to read these words:
“Love is like a light shining in a dark place.
As we look at the light of this candle, we celebrate the love we find in Jesus.”
Hannah Craven is an Anglican minister in a church in North Carlton - on the fringe of Melbourne city. Wife to Tom & mother to Liam & Amber.