Immanuel means “God with us.” You might have known that already, but have you felt it? This simplicity of Jesus’ birth redeemed my thoughts about God four years ago.
On December 23rd, 2014, I heard the garage door open. My parents walked in from the doctor appointment. They sat my sister and I down on the couch and I knew the words before they said them. I could feel the weight of what they were about to tell us.
“Cancer,” my dad said. My mom couldn’t speak, but her tears said enough. To hear that cold word made me angry. How could a good God have this written in the plan? Why did December 23rd have “cancer” on the agenda? I felt tricked and I questioned God. This was the same God my 18 year old self ran to for life’s struggles thus far and nothing lined up about his character in that moment.
At the time I wished this news could’ve waited a few days just so Christmas wasn’t so shaken. We were even going to a Christmas church service that night. If I’m being honest, didn’t want to hear about sweet baby Jesus coming and I didn’t want to sing about God’s goodness. I wanted God to fix it. I wanted my happy life back. I had a choice: to invite Jesus into my pain or wallow in self-pity.
My heart began to open up.
More than fixing my situation, I felt him with me. He met my tears with peace, with thankfulness, and with comfort. This was a peace that went quite literally beyond my understanding (Phil. 4:7). And come to think of it, Jesus was birthed when the world was desperate. I was desperate on December 23rd. But he came. He loved us so much that he came to be with us not just in a moment of grief, but for eternity.
God taught me so much about himself on that winter night. He showed me that his name wasn’t just another fancy word; it’s his character. It’s a sort of promise of never leaving or forsaking us, even when life doesn’t look like we thought it would. Immanuel means that when the ground beneath my feet goes unleveled, I have someone to hold onto. He doesn’t shake with me; he holds me steady. This baby is the same Jesus that spoke to wavy waters and they stood still.
I’m thankful God sent Jesus to be with us. God saw a hurting world and sent his son, who would pay for our sins on the cross. All of this just to be with us.
It doesn’t take tragedy to feel God’s presence with you. In fact, if you have breath in your lungs he is with you.
Four years later, I’m happy to remind you he never changes. Thank goodness he came. Thank goodness he’s still with us.
Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. -Isaiah 7:14
For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. -Isaiah 9:6