If I were asked to sum up the rich meaning of Christmas in one word, it would be “Emmanuel.” This year, more than any other, I’ve found myself surrounded by this name in Christmas songs and on Christmas cards, and I just haven’t been able to keep my mind off of reflecting on the deep theological truths behind it.
We are first introduced to this glorious name as the prophet Isaiah peers into the future and catches a glimpse of the Coming Savior:
Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel.
We know without a doubt that this prophecy concerns Jesus Christ, because in the opening chapter of the New Testament, Matthew makes this connection:
An angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which translated means, “God with us.”
Why Do We Call Him Emmanuel?
You may be asking yourself, “If His name was supposed to be Emmanuel, then why do we call Him Jesus?” Just keep in mind that in the Hebrew language, the word “name” could refer to a title as well as a proper name. At church on Sunday you might address your pastor by his first name or as “Pastor,” but either way you’d be addressing the same person. While “Jesus” was the proper name for the Messiah, He also holds several titles, including Wonderful, Counselor, Almighty God, Prince of Peace… and yes… Emmanuel.
Why is This Name So Significant?
This year I’ve experienced one of the most worshipful Christmas seasons of my life, and I think it is partly because I’ve taken time to really meditate and reflect on the meaning of this name. You see, “Emmanuel” literally means “God is with us,” and this title captures the mystery and the miracle that is Christmas. The Almighty God, who crafted the galaxies with His bare hands (Genesis 1:1), the Eternal Word, Who always was and always will be (John 1:1), came to Earth in the form of a helpless baby. Why? Because it was not enough for God to remain in Heaven and love us from a distance. No, He sent His Son to walk with us, talk with us, teach us about Himself, and show us His great love in a personal and intimate way.
The Peace and Comfort of Knowing This Emmanuel
The more I think about the fact that the God of the Universe became our “Emmanuel,” the more I am filled with an overwhelming sense of calm. Even as I stood before my family yesterday morning and preached a funeral service for my uncle, I found indescribable peace in reflecting on the fact that now that Jesus has come into my heart, that God is with me. No matter where I go or what I face, He walks beside me, offering me comfort, wisdom, and strength.
This is nothing short of a miracle… and this miracle is the key to the magic and beauty of Christmas.
O Come, O Come Emmanuel – by Michael W. Smith
Countless worship artists have woven the name “Emmanuel” into their songs of praise, but one that I find particularly inspiring is the version of O Come, O Come Emmanuel produced by Michael W. Smith. As you enjoy this video, may you reflect on the overwhelming significance of this one tiny word, which is the Story of Christmas in a nutshell.