The Joy of Emmanuel

“The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call Him Immanuel* – which means, “God with us.”  Matthew 1:23 NIV

Who doesn’t love a good reunion?  It gives us great joy to see loved ones who have been away: college students, military servicemen and women, missionaries, your brother who moved across the country, a granddaughter who lives abroad.  The best television commercials show a family member embraced loved one as he returns home. We all love the videos that show service personnel coming home to surprise their joyful families after being deployed far from away.  I remember running through the airport to welcome my own Dad back home after a tour of duty in Vietnam.

The Bible tells us that God finds great joy in reunions too.  In fact, that is the point of the Christmas story.  God wanted to be reunited with His beloved creation-mankind – you and me.  God created us for relationship, not that we might service His needs, and not to use us in some cosmic chess game.  But so that he could lavish His love on us, and we would respond with love back to Him.  The Bible shows us that God has continually drawn near to man.  In the garden, He had close and personal fellowship with Adam and Eve, walking through the Garden with them in the cool of the evening.  But sin broke that intimate fellowship, and a barrier was placed between God and man.  God commanded the Israelites to make a Tabernacle that He might come and dwell among His people, and He did for hundreds of years, until again, the sin of the nation of Israel became so great that God withdrew from the Temple.  The Old Testament records many visitations of God to Abraham, Jacob, Daniel and others who were devoted to Him.  But these were brief occasions, to impart a message or empower His servant for a specific act.  God desired a deeper communion with man.  And God had a plan.

Galatians 4:4 tells us “When the time had fully come, God sent His Son,” His Son whose is called “Immanuel,” which means “God with us.”  Jesus came as a baby, all of the fullness and deity of God wrapped in flesh and lying in a rough manger because God loves the joy of being with His beloved creation.   Jesus, the God-man, walked among His creation, though they did not recognize Him.  Jesus brought God near to us, a joyous reunion indeed.  “God with us” means you and I are never alone, if we are trusting in Him as our Savior and Lord.  We have the joy of His presence with us continually in the indwelling Holy Spirit.  Immanuel is with us in storms and darkness and trial and suffering.  He is with us in our times of doubt and fear and loneliness and emptiness.  The joy of Immanuel is knowing that there is no place we can go and no circumstance of life we will face that God is not with us.  Jesus made Himself on of us that we might know the joy of His presence now and for eternity.

I pray that the joy of Immanuel is with you this Advent season.

“Oh, Emmanuel*, Emmanuel, Your name is called Emmanuel God with us Revealed in us, Your name is called Emmanuel.”  Amen

* Some translations spell this word differently, the NIV uses Immanuel, the KJV uses Emmanuel – either way God is with us.

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