There is a single phrase I really love to hear at the beginning of a weekly discipleship meeting with a young Christian: “I have a question.” It means the person sitting across from me is personally engaging in understanding and applying truth.
On this particular occasion, it was late in the month of December—the week before Christmas, if I remember correctly—when the recently-saved Christian I was meeting with began our discipleship meeting with that statement. It was her first Christmas after being saved as an adult a few months previously, so much was new to her.
I’m not usually taken off guard by questions of young Christians, but this one surprised even me: “Who is Emmanuel?”
Before I could answer, she continued, “I mean, we’ve been singing about Him in church a lot this month. Who is He?”
I couldn’t help but smile—both at the innocence of the question and the incredible fullness of the answer.
Who is Emmanuel? He is Jesus, and the three-word meaning of His name—“God with us”—is the shortest way to most fully describe Christmas.
“Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.”—Matthew 1:23
Chances are, you already know that Emmanuel refers to Jesus and means “God with us.” But if you’re like me, chances also are that you sometimes forget the implications that truth has in your life.
These three words change everything.
Without them, we are alone. Struggling with problems larger than our resources. Grasping after hope that is not real. Separated from God. Full of ourselves, but empty of anything that matters.
With them…well, think of it:
GOD with Us
Jesus is God in the flesh (John 1:14). He didn’t send a helper; He came as our Saviour. This is God Himself who is with us.
Have you ever needed help and been offered it by someone who was incompetent? Or insufficient?
Before Jesus came, believers did hear from God, specifically through the prophets. But Jesus wasn’t just a prophet. He wasn’t just a teacher who could give helpful truths. He is God.
We do disservice to this great doctrinal truth, however, when we treat Christmas (or any aspect of the Christian life) as merely a set of truths to learn and apply. (Seek God like the wise men; surrender to His will like Mary; witness like the shepherds.)
I’m not suggesting that God has not given us truths to apply to our lives, and the ones above are needful applications. But I am suggesting that when we attempt them apart from (or worse, in the place of) a direct and dependent relationship with God, we’re missing what the Christian life is all about. “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent” (John 17:3).
God WITH Us
When you need help, it’s nice to know there are people who care and who are pulling for you. But it’s even better to have someone who is with you—not just “in spirit,” but in presence.
Because Jesus came, we who know Him as our Saviour have Him with us: “…for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” (Hebrews 13:5).
He is with us always.
God with US
One of the best ways to feel the personal impact of a Scripture passage is to insert your name in the place of an inclusive pronoun. God isn’t just with “us” as in with “all mankind.” He is with you.
Think of it this way: “God with [your name].” In fact, go ahead and say it aloud.
What condescension! What grace! “…though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9).
God with us. That is enough. That is Christmas.