Immanuel: God is still with us

Merry Christmas, friends! I am praying you find yourself surrounded by loved ones today. As I write this, I’m hoping you’ll get to eat some special “Christmas-only” dishes, open some gifts, and sing some favorite carols.

I love the carol “O Come, O Come Immanuel” – the tune is beautiful, but the words so clearly capture the beauty, the waiting, the celebration, and the longing of being in between two advents. And there is something about singing His name…Immanuel.

Speaking His name out loud feels like a deep breath. It’s the deep breath that reminds us of ache satisfied, hope realized, and promises kept through the advent of the Son of God.

Centuries of waiting began in Eden when the Lord made a promise of rescue:

“And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”

And in Isaiah 7:14, they were given His wondrous name:

“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.”

Immanuel is a Hebrew name meaning God With Us – the King coming to His people and walking among them. And that’s what they expected. A King.

But this King wasn’t like the kings they had before. And the humility of His coming was difficult to grasp- why would God come quietly when His people had waited so long? Why would the heavens not roar with His birth to draw the attention of all creation? Why would the smell of livestock welcome his first breath instead of the clean, perfumed air of a palace?

This first advent of the Messiah seemed to not disrupt a thing that night; yet, the King had indeed come. He took on our likeness, and the clock started ticking down until the day He would conquer the mortal enemy of the human race: the claim of sin and death on our souls.

For centuries, He was the one God’s people fervently prayed for- to “ransom” them not only from their oppressors, but from the eternal bondage of sin itself. But contrary to much expectation, He did not first come as a conquering warrior throwing off the bondage of earthly oppressors and the exile they were existing in.

Instead, this Infant was the One who “… being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to His own advantage; rather, He made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to death- even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:6-8)

Our King came. And that humble birth began His humble journey to the cross.

This Christmas morning, as we celebrate the birth of Immanuel, we look back on the birth in Bethlehem with celebration in our hearts for the first advent- the incarnation of God Himself. In the midst of rejoicing, our hearts are waiting, too. Our hearts are filled with a different longing. You feel it. I feel it. Creation feels it. We ache for His second advent- when He returns and every knee will bow and tongue confess that He is Lord. The King of Peace is coming again.

We rejoice in the first advent, we are comforted that Immanuel is still with us, and we wait for His second advent when we see Him face-to-face. Rejoice!

“O come, Desire of nations, bind

In one the hearts of all mankind;

Bid Thou our sad divisions cease,

And be Thyself our King of peace.

Rejoice, rejoice! Immanuel

Shall come to thee, O Israel!”

 

P.S. I really enjoy this version of O Come, O Come Emmanuel from Future of Forestry in their album Advent Christmas. Grab a cup of cider, sit in your favorite chair, and let your heart rejoice as you listen to these words.

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