Over the past few years I have become more keenly aware of the powerful meaning of the name Immanuel. When a Messiah was promised in the Old Testament, Isaiah said, “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) Many years later, an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel.” (Matthew 1:23) In the New Testament passage, we learn what this name is intended to communicate. It means God with us.
The declaration that God was going to be with his people would have been wonderful news. For generations, God had chosen to be silent. Many people who had desperately waited to hear a fresh word from God wound up going to their graves with hopeful hearts but unfulfilled dreams. Generation after generation after generation waited and even longed for the coming of God to earth. Eventually, in God’s perfect timing, the silence of heaven was broken by the cry of a newborn baby in a manger in Bethlehem. God had delivered on his promise: he had delivered himself to dwell among his creation. God was with man. God was with us.
When Jesus was nearing the end of his life on earth, he promised that we would in fact not be left alone to fend for ourselves. God was sending us a helper. The Holy Spirit of God would dwell in every redeemed follower of Jesus. The Holy Spirit was more than just a wink and a nod from God to encourage us. The Holy Spirit is God. God with us.
This is such an important thing to get our heads wrapped around because when we really believe God is with us, it gives us strength, courage, hope and resolve to obey God. There is something about knowing God is with you that inspires you to give your best and to dream big dreams. There is something about knowing God is with you that gives you peace in the storms and the ability to trust him when all the world surrounds you with darkness and brokenness.
One of the greatest blessings of my life is the opportunity God has given me to be a dad. One of my favorite memories is when my daughter had the opportunity to give a presentation in our High School Fine Arts Center. She was in third grade and would need to command the stage that captivated 700 seats. It was an overwhelming moment to say the least. I will never forget her looking at me with tears in her eyes saying, “Daddy, I can’t do this.” I gently reminded her of all the time, energy and effort she had put into preparing for this moment and that she was ready. Despite my best attempts at a pep-talk, nothing was working — until I said, “I’m right here with you and will be on the front row supporting you. When you get up there, just look for me because I am here, and you are not alone.” She walked onto the stage, paused, and scanned the audience as if holding her breath until we made eye contact. As soon as our eyes locked, I winked at her with a grin and she took a deep breath and gave her presentation just as she had rehearsed.
What is it God has called you to? What is it God is currently leading you through? What is out there that has you afraid?
Whatever it is, please remember the great promise of our God: he is with us. Look for him in your circumstances because he is there. Look for him in the places where you feel isolated and alone because he is there. Look for him in the hurdles that just seem too big to overcome because he is there. He is with you! Today we can all celebrate the fact that, for those in Christ Jesus, we do not do this thing called life alone because God is faithful to his promise. God is with us.