It is difficult to escape the discouragement of this unique holiday season. Many are grieving get-togethers that simply cannot take place. It goes against our human nature — us being created in the image of a relational God — to not gather with our loved ones. While we hope and pray ways are made for you to fellowship with your friends and family this season, we also want to encourage your hearts in difficult circumstances. While some of us must distance ourselves from those we care for, we can draw upon the endless reservoir of hope found in Emmanuel — our God who is with us.
God’s Word is a continuous story from cover to cover of hope and deliverance, and perhaps the crescendo of that promise is wrapped up in this name: Emmanuel, God With Us. We read it first in Isaiah 7:14, “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and she will name Him Immanuel.” Later, the change of “I,” Immanuel, to “E,” “Emmanuel” would carry this name to the Roman language, but the essence would remain the same: God is with us.
These words in Isaiah would be fulfilled around 700 years later on that evening we sing about, “O, Holy Night,” and holy it was! As the hymn sings, it was the night of our dear Savior’s birth — and not just any rescuer, for there could be only One — God Himself entering a bruised and broken world, drawing near to us when we had no chance of drawing near to Him.
Because He came, He is well acquainted with our sorrows. Isaiah 53:3 tells us He was “A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.” If anyone knew the terrible state of separation, it was Christ. He chose to enter a world which would reject Him, pushed away by the very ones He came to save. He would suffer the pains of departing from those He loved in this world, leaving His earthly mother and father and His disciples, and feeling the weight of how they would miss Him. And of course, by choosing to come to earth, He endured the greatest separation, leaving His heavenly Father God. And while God was with Him during His time on earth, in that moment when Jesus took our sin upon Himself, God had to look away. In His holiness, He could not set His eyes upon His Son, now covered in the guilt of our sins. It was the greatest sorrow earth would ever know, making way for the most tremendous hope we can have.
Emmanuel is perfectly experienced to show compassion toward our separations and grief this season. He knows how the heart feels when it cannot be with whom it desires to be with. And He is not only fit to understand and empathize with our sorrows, but also He is the only One who can meet us in the midst of them and bring hope, light, and truth. Because Emmanuel draws near, we have the assurance of proximity to God. We receive the invitation of Hebrews 4:16 to, “approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace for help at the time of our need.”
Because He drew near to us, we can in the midst of our sorrows draw near to Him.
“For Christ also suffered for sins once for all time, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God …”
“Precious lamb came to redeem us
Heaven’s dawn broke through the night
Just to be with us
You came to earth, yielding Your life
Carried the weight of our sin and strife
Just to be with us
God is here with us
God is here with us, Emmanuel …”