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Immanuel

 

Jeremy Eagan, M.Ed

JCS Bible Department Head

 

There is a name for Jesus that gets some play this time of year and then goes away again for 11 months. Immanuel. If you have been around church tradition very long it is one of the few Hebrew words that you already know the meaning of. Immanuel = God with us. But isn't His name Jesus? Why is He also given this name? What does the meaning really mean for us today?

 

Jesus' name is Jesus. When an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream and told him of his fiancés' miracle pregnancy he declared the child's name will be Jesus (Matthew 1:21). This name Jesus means 'to rescue or to save' and the angel says the child's name should be Jesus because he will save the people from their sins. That is when it gets weird. The Gospel author, Matthew, records this scene and then adds "All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: 'Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call is name Immanuel' (Matthew 1:22-23). This association with Isaiah's prophecy to King Ahaz over seven hundred years earlier is peculiar (Isaiah 7:14). Name him Jesus, this fulfills the prophecy to name him Immanuel. What?!

 

Without getting into the weeds on what the prophecy meant to Ahaz, let's focus on why this connects to Jesus. In ancient Hebrew culture, it wasn't uncommon for important men to have two names given to them at birth even though they would only go by one of them. Jacob's son Benjamin was also called Ben-oni (Genesis 35:18). Solomon was also named Jedidiah by the prophet Nathan (2 Samuel 12:25). The names they do not go by were symbolic names rather than proper names. This is the same with Jesus. The prophet Isaiah had also foretold that the Savior would be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace but none of those were intended to be his proper name (Isaiah 9:6). They do tell is a lot about who Jesus is supposed to be and it's a pretty big deal.

 

Immanuel is the same sort of name. It tells us that Jesus is not just another child from royal lineage who will ultimately fall short of God's standards, He is the One, He is God Himself in human form dwelling with us. Through Jesus, God is interceding on behalf of humans as a human. He came to show us a new way to be human.  He sacrificed Himself to cover our sins and He defeated death for us in His resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:4). He offers hope, life, and reconciliation with a God who desperately loves us. This is incredible.

 

This is also were it gets incredibly relevant to us today. For many families Christmas is a time of excitement and relaxation but for others it is a time of pain, regret, and loneliness. As broken people we all have our fair share of broken relationships, broken families, or lost loved ones that make this time of year especially hard. My friend Tullian says, let Immanuel remind us "that the hope of Christmas is not that we will (in this life) get past our sadness and pain. Rather, it is that God promises to be with us when we struggle through our sadness and pain." Christmas is the celebration of 'God with us', the One who entered into our hurt and misery and promises to never leave us or forsake us. He sits in this with us. He is with us. 

 

Robert Capon puts it this way, "He comes to us in the brokenness of our health, in the shipwreck of our family lives, in the loss of all the possible peace of mind, even in the very thick of our sins He saves us in our disasters, not from them. He emphatically does not promise to meet only the odd winner of the self-improvement lottery. He meets us all in our endless and inescapable losing."

 

No matter what we face this Christmas season, in public or in private, far away or nearby, God is with us in it. He has chosen to do so and He has not changed His mind. Christmas season reminds us of God's commitment to redeem us, and just as Christmas isn't the end of Jesus' story, God will finish what He started in us too (Philippians 1:6).

Jupiter Christian School

700 S Delaware Blvd • Jupiter, FL 33458 • (561) 354-1900

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