For some, the Christmas season is wonderful, commemorating all things merry and bright.
There are cookies to decorate, movies to stream, gifts to wrap, people to serve, and family and friends to pull close.
But for many others, the Christmas season is paired with seemingly more challenges than cheer.
Perhaps hidden behind their relaxed smiles and picturesque Christmas cards, they mourn the lost of a loved one or struggle to put presents under the tree.
If you or your family have been confronted by any challenge this season, whether it is physical, financial, or spiritual, you are not alone.
Nor was Mary and Joseph, the wise men, and the shepherds on the first Christmas night. They were just humans like you and me, after all. They too experienced weakness, exhaustion, and fear.
But Jesus’ first cry dawned the reassurance they needed. Even his name — Immanuel, God with us — resounded a promise that hushed their fears.
This December, I’ve been pondering the word Immanuel.
In Isaiah, God reveals the name “Immanuel” as Isaiah prophesies Christ’s first coming: “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel (Isaiah 7:14).
In Matthew’s account of Jesus’ life, an angel tells Joseph to name the baby in Mary’s womb Immanuel (Matthew 1:23).
Interestingly, the name Immanuel only appears three times in Scripture — twice in Isaiah, and once in Matthew. But the rich truth it reveals about God must not be overlooked.
Charles Spurgeon, a great preacher from the 19th century, simplifies this truth for us: “Immanuel, God with us in our nature, in our sorrow, in our punishment, in our grave, and now with us, or rather we with him, in resurrection, ascension, triumph, and Second Advent.” [i]
This is where the word “Immanuel” takes on a deeper, practical meaning for believers.
Jesus was Immanuel on the night he arrived and Immanuel through his life, death, and resurrection. Today, he is still Immanuel. He is with you in your pain, struggle, and hardship.
And what’s more, because of his saving grace, you get to be with him today and for eternity.
Therefore, the truth of Immanuel is really twofold: He is with you and you get to be with him.
What a life-changing truth the Incarnation heralds for you and me just as it did for the biblical characters of the first Christmas story.