The Miracle of Immanuel
And they shall call His name ImmanuelMatthew 1:23b
Joseph did not understand it. But then, who really does? Isn't all of the work of salvation characterized by the miraculous? Joseph and Mary had been "keeping company" for some time. They were engaged, which means that according to the custom of those days they were really already married. Only they didn't yet live together. Quite likely Mary told him that she was pregnant, but with it assured him very emphatically that she had not been unfaithful to him, that she had had no sexual relations with another man. But how could this be? In Joseph's mind this must have been impossible. Apparently he couldn't accept it, or at least he could no longer accept Mary. He would put her away privately. But the God who was working all this in Mary told Joseph in a dream that this was the work of the Holy Spirit. No doubt Joseph believed it. What faith! But the emphasis was laid upon the fact that because of this work of the Spirit in Mary her child would be Immanuel, God with us.
Don't try to understand it, or comprehend it. If you do, unbelief and distrust will be the result. We believe it because the Bible says so. Imagine, the Almighty, infinite God united with small, insignificant, finite man. Isaiah speaks of the millions of people being like a drop of water on the outside of a bucket, when water is dipped out of a well. Or, look at it from the viewpoint of creation. We are told in our day how great the universe is.
Almost infinite. Astronomers speak of millions and billions of miles separating heavenly bodies from one another. And God had but to speak and they were there. This God united with man who is but like dust on the scale, according to Isaiah. Does it make any sense? Not really, to the human mind that cannot discern spiritual truths.
He will be with man. Now we can be with each other in different ways. Husbands and wives, e.g. are with each other. Parents live with their children when they are still at home. Friends can be with friends. But when God is with us, the statement refers to something much richer and permanent. It is a union of God with man, an invisible one, also indivisible, never to be separated.
God, this great majestic God, with man even in the embryo stage in Mary's womb. God with man when Jesus is a little baby, weighing perhaps 5 or 6 pounds. God with man when he had "dirty diapers" and a "running nose." God with man in all circumstances — when he is weak, hungry, crying, sick and sorrowful. In fact there is no time when God was not with man in the person of our Saviour.
What a humiliation as well as a miracle! All comparisons really fail here. We read of a czar of Russia who some years ago wanted to know what the life of his peasants was like. So he disguised himself, became poor like they were, lived with them, worked with them, ate their food and lived their lives for some time. Knowing the exalted position of a czar, the people when they later heard about this were dumbfounded at his humiliation and concern. But this is really "nothing" compared with what the infinite God did in the incarnation.
Never has the world heard of anything like it. The scriptures speak of the gods of the heathen, who as deities had to be appeased. And only then would it fare well with their worshippers. And they demanded much, even more than the works and material gifts of people. Often parents would give their children as living sacrifices on burning altars or in some other way to please their gods. According to Greek mythology there were many gods in heaven. Other people believed that there were really only two gods in the heavens, one of good and one of evil. But these gods remained in the heavens. This true God came down and joined Himself with the creatures here on this troubled earth, wholly out of love, in the greatest miracle that ever took place.
What a God we have! In Dutch, people often expressed it in these words: wij zien het maar doorgronden het niet (we see, but do not understand).
While on earth this Immanuel was Prophet, Priest and King. As Prophet He told us about God, His Father. Who could do it like He did? He spoke as no other man spoke. People marveled. As Priest He showed love, going through the land doing good, and being man He could have a feeling for people in their infirmities, and sympathize with them in every need. In that love He finally went to the cross to make that great payment for His people. Even in death He was with us in our grave. As King He showed that God is a God of justice, when He became angry, but also that in Him there was the power over nature and death. The apostle John gives expression to something of this truth when he says "We saw Him, we heard Him and had fellowship with Him." What a tremendous experience this must have been for the disciples, to have lived with the Son of God. It is in daily living with people that we learn to know them. These men ate with Him, slept with Him, saw how He lived our life on this earth, how He faced life, sin, problems, sorrow and opposition. When I think of this I am sometimes jealous of these men. And then again I am not. We really have much more light than they did.
God is still with us. In a much greater sense. Christ has gone into heaven. The Spirit has been poured out. And through the Spirit and the Word as God with us He is in us. And with it we have all His great and exceeding rich promises. For all Christians it surely can be said that Christ is with them from day to day. At no moment is He absent from them. Always He forgives us when we confess our sins, and always He answers every true prayer, with an answer of yes, or no, or wait. And gives grace accordingly. He promises that He will be with us in our fears, loneliness, weaknesses and infirmities. And always He will go with us into the future. To David he said, "My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my mouth."
What a tremendous blessing this is when this is made personal. Every Christian who trusts in Christ and knows Him can say, "This is true for me." God with me! Someday everybody else will leave me, also my husband or wife, or closest friend. But not my Lord. He really knows who I am. Nobody else really knows me, who and what I still often am in my innermost being, in all my failures and weaknesses. But He knows me and as the Immanuel stays with me and always will.
When the child of God knows this and believes these promises of incredible love and faithfulness, of this great God, it overwhelms him. And through it all he is becoming prepared to join that choir of millions in heaven, in singing, Hallelujah, what a Saviour!
Immanuel, God with us. That's what Christmas is all about.