When reciting the Christmas narrative, emphasis is often placed on Jesus’ mother — Mary. Jospeh’s involvement is sometimes overlooked. Matthew’s account is worth noting. He told of the way in which an angel appeared to the Messiah’s earthly father. The angelic being proclaimed, “See, the virgin will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and they will name Him Immanuel” (Matthew 1:23). The moniker “Immanuel” means “God with us” (see Matthew 1:24). Its inclusion in the birth announcement ties Jesus’ birth to Messianic prophecy. In ancient Judah, the prophet Isaiah proclaimed, “Therefore, the Lord Himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive, have a son, and name him Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14).
The prophetic title has great meaning for God’s people. Jesus was not a mere religious figurehead. He cannot be reduced to a mere law-giver, moral example, or spiritual guru. He was God and He came to live amongst humanity (see John 1:14). He took upon Himself the raw essence of mankind so that people might truly know Him.
The Holy Spirit —
Immanuel means that God wants to abide in us. The Lord Himself wants to have a personal relationship with the people He has created. He does this through the presence of the Holy Spirit. When a person places his or her faith in Jesus, a portion of God’s Spirit is deposited within the soul (see Galatians 3:2 and Ephesians 1:13). Paul referred to the Third Person of the Trinity as “the Spirit of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:19). Immanuel did not come as a babe in Bethlehem to just live among us; He came to live in us. Jesus would teach His disciples that this inward dwelling is far superior to an outward interaction (see John 16:7). Believers have an otherworldly gift through Jesus’ presence which dwells within them. They have a personal teacher, comforter, instructor, and guide (see John 16:5-11).
The Lord’s Supper —
When Jesus instituted the New Covenant celebratory meal, He provided another powerful picture of Immanuel (see 1 Corinthians 11:23-26). The bread and wine He served entered into the bodies of His disciples. It was then broken down into nutrients and disseminated throughout their beings through their bloodstreams. In a similar, yet spiritual way, God became profoundly personal with us through the birth of His Son and the coming of His Son’s Spirit.
The Eternal State —
At the end of human history, Immanuel will be fully realized. Of the New Heaven and the New Earth, John prophesied: “I also saw the Holy City, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared like a bride adorned for her husband. Then I heard a loud voice from the throne: Look! God’s dwelling is with humanity, and He will live with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God” (Revelation 21:2-3). One day we will see Immanuel face-to-face. For now, we can walk with Him through His Spirit which dwells within us. His abiding presence gives us hope and strength in the midst of life’s pains, problems, and perplexities.
Dr. Patrick Latham