I do not think I have ever given as much thought to this name of Jesus as I have this year. As I go through my daily life all the year long, I am aware of Christ’s presence in my life on a certain level. I know Him to be near, interceding for me. I talk with Him. But, I have found my heart pulled toward and resting on “Emmanuel” in a different way this year.
God with us. Emmanuel.
What has struck me is that this is not just a description about God. This is not just the Bible saying, “God is with you.” It’s actually a name of Christ. It’s an attribute and then again it’s so much more than just an attribute. It’s intrinsic in His nature; it’s what He wants us to call Him. It’s the core of His character. It’s His heart for us.
That’s a powerful message to someone like me. I put a lot of stock in the names of things. I love words and their meanings. Few things make me happier than discovering a new word in the Dictionary or Thesaurus. I love fantasy and allegories because given names in these stories carry weight and power; they evoke things in your heart, and they can breathe life and beauty into a character or kingdom. I’m the woman who keeps a list of future baby names on my cell phone–always keeping my ears open for a new name, unique spelling, the perfect cadence and right number of syllables, and a name’s meaning.
I’ve felt the nearness of Christ in recent months more than I ever have in my life. I’ve experienced God With Me. I’ve been embraced by Emmanuel. He has been real and close and present, working His will in my life, circumstances, and heart. There is nothing like it. It is both the richest blessing and most undeserved grace that He draws near to us–to me–in every condition, fear, and uncertainty.
When life seems lonely, when evenings are quiet, when the days seem long and exhausting, when we stumble into hard truths or are brought low with heart-wrenching realities–God is still God With Us. Nothing changes that. It is His name. He does not leave; He could not forsake those who love Him.
Amid bright holiday festivities, precious family traditions, and seasonal cheer–God is also still God With Us.
Matt Chandler said it well on Sunday. To paraphrase:
God is good to give us both. Both the gut-wrenching moments where life and memories are sharp, tender, and fresh due to pain, sorrow, uncertain outcomes, and loss, as well as the moments abounding with the fullness of laughter and love, cheer and a lack of want. God keeps His promises to us. He has promised to save us from our sins. And He has promised to be sufficient for us regardless of our situations. He does that by being Emmanuel–God With Us.
As it says:
“Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good!
Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!
Oh, fear the LORD, you his saints,
for those who fear him have no lack!
The young lions suffer want and hunger;
but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing.”
— Psalm 34:8-10
I have encouraged my heart in the following Advent message:
“We can all all identify with feeling hopeless and helpless, especially when it comes to the weight of sin. Heavy and inescapable, we know its effects with every breath–both our own sin and that of others. Our world is full of evidence that something is wrong and needs to be made right. The reason we celebrate Advent is because the story of the Garden doesn’t end with man’s rebellion. God makes a promise, and He keeps it perfectly. Surely He who has been perfectly faithful to His promises in the past will be faithful to all His promises to come.” – The Village Church, Advent Guide
Every day brings a new challenge, distraction, heart ache, joy, gift, or blessing. Whether it is finding out that a dear friend or family member has been diagnosed with cancer, to learning that someone you love has lost their job to struggling with the ache of loneliness, Emmanuel is God With Us. Whether it is enjoying the blessings of health, family peace and unity, and prosperity or opening your heart up to the joy of love, Emmanuel is God With Us. If I have learned anything, it is that life is seasonal and cyclical. It ebbs and flows. And, it’s all for our sanctification.
So truly, we can say: