Have you ever thought about the fact that Matthew says the baby born in Bethlehem is to be called Jesus but Isaiah says He is to be called Immanuel? “’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.’” Matthew 1:21-23. This seems like a contradiction at first read. Was that promised One to be called Jesus or Immanuel? Who was right, Matthew or Isaiah?
In Matthew 1:23, Matthew quotes from the prophet Isaiah. 800 years before Jesus' birth the prophet Isaiah wrote, "Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel." Immanuel means God with us. The baby born it that manger was literally the presence of God. The promised child. The Hope of all creation. Our Redeemer. Our King. Our Immanuel. Our God with us!
You may be wondering, as I was, about the two different names, Jesus and Immanuel. The passage in Matthew that quotes the prophet Isaiah states He is to be called Jesus. Then it says He is to be called Immanuel. So what is His name supposed to be, Jesus or Immanuel?
The answer is simple. Jesus is a personal name. Immanuel is a role.
Jesus never actually bore the name Immanuel during His earthly life. The name Immanuel indicates His role, bringing God's presence to man. Immanuel, the role, means God with us. The phrase God with us describes the nature of Jesus. He is God who became man. When Jesus was born, God came down and dwelt among man. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.... And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.... No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father's side, He has made Him known.” John 1:1-18. His presence among His creation meant that He was a man among men, yet at the same time, He was also the holy Son of God.
Immanuel is Messiah, the God of Israel.
Isaiah prophesied about the Messiah, the God of Israel. His words were not disputed at the time because he spoke of things that were distant, things far into the future. 800 years into the future! Yet, when Jesus spoke of Himself as the Messiah He pushed all the boundaries of political correctness.
When Jesus spoke with the woman at the well in John 4:25–26 she said, “I know that Messiah is coming (He who is called Christ). When He comes, He will tell us all things.” Jesus answered her by saying, “I who speak to you am He.” In John 10:30 He also said to the Jews in the temple when they inquired if He was the Christ, “I and the Father are one."
C.S. Lewis' quote embodies the challenge of aligning Jesus with His statements about Himself.
"A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic, on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg, or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to." -C.S. Lewis
The child is born, but the Son is given.
The reality of Matthew 1:21-23 is not merely that a baby was born, the reality is that God became that baby. God was in that manger! We also read in Isaiah 9:6, and I find this particularly interesting, that the child is born, but the Son is given. "For to us a child is born, to us a Son is given; and the government shall be upon His shoulder, and His name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." Why was the child born and the Son given? This is because the Son existed before the child was born. The virgin gave birth to a child, but the child that the virgin birthed existed before she even conceived. Therefore, the Son was given, not born.
The Son came to do the Father's will.
Hebrews 10:1 talks of the law and says, "...it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near." In verse 4 we read, "For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins." Then in verses 5-7 we have this recorded dialogue between God the Father and Christ the Son. “Sacrifices and offerings You have not desired, but a body have You prepared for me; in burnt offerings and sin offerings You have taken no pleasure. Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come to do Your will, O God, as it is written of Me in the scroll of the book.’” This is Christ. This is God. This is the babe in the manger. It's our Immanuel, our God with us coming to earth in the form of a man to do the Father’s will.
In doing the Father's will He experienced the struggle of mankind.
Not only did Jesus come to earth to dwell among men, not only did He become man to do the Father’s will, He came to be God. He came to be our Immanuel, our God with us. This was His role.
Throughout His life on earth, Jesus demonstrated a constant awareness and closeness to mankind. He experienced the struggle of a fallen, chaotic world. His words were comfort. His actions were compassion. He understood the issues of the day. He demonstrated this understanding with empathy for the people and their struggle. Jesus lived the human experience to the fullest. And in all this, He remained holy.
What is at stake here is not whether we celebrate with tinsel and lights the birth of the child Isaiah wrote of. What's at stake is our understanding of Who God is and His roll of Immanuel. It has everything to do with recognizing that Jesus, Immanuel, Messiah, the God of Israel cares so much for His creation that He sent His only Son to be with us. He is Immanuel. He is our God with us.
Please don't judge us! We love cookies, a lot! We have some beautiful Christmas cookie pins over on our Pinterest Merry Christmas Inspiration board. Dozens of them for you to choose from and share this season with your friends. Kind of like a cookie exchange, but different. Better! Please feel free to share and be an encourager. Merry Christmas!
We have entered a season of hope. It's in full swing. THE season of hope! Jesus is our Hope! Even though the world might try to deny it, ignore it and pretend this season is about something else all together, this season is still all about Him!
"I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken." Psalms 16:8
I've been thinking over the past few weeks about all the families affected by the wildfires in California, and those who have no home for the holidays. The Camp fire alone is responsible for the loss of more than 6000 homes as well as several fatalities. For these families this Christmas holiday will be much different than they expected.
While others are baking Christmas cookies and hang lights from the eaves of their homes, these families are experiencing a loss they didn't see coming. Last Christmas they could not have imagined what this Christmas would look like. For many it has been nothing short of pure devastation. They've lost everything! They have no home for the holidays. For some, the devastation even includes the loss of a loved one. For these, there will be an empty seat at the table when Christmas dinner is served.
All of the Merry Christmases and joyous cheer can be difficult at best when you are facing the devastating loss of a home, loved one, or even a part-of-the-family beloved pet. Or maybe your year just didn’t go as planned. Possibly a relationship ended, you lost a job or had a serious financial setback. You or someone you love could be facing a personal health challenge or some other type of challenge that leaves you with a loss of joy this Christmas holiday. You would rather hide away under the covers until January 1 and forget Christmas ever happened.
It’s tough going through a difficult time in life when everyone and everything around you is celebrating the season, I know. Your world seems to have come to a complete standstill while those around you are scurrying about their merry ways. I remember the Christmas we lost my sister to a drunk driver, just twelve days before Christmas. I can't tell you how we made it through that holiday. Certainly we would not have without God's help. He held our hands. He reached down and assured us in tangible ways that this was His plan all along. He ushered us into a season of rejoicing through a season of mourning.
If any of the above describes your current situation, please know that you WILL get through this. You will! You will get through with God's help and you will emerge stronger in faith because of His faithfulness. In the meantime, here are a few things that helped me during that very difficult Christmas.
Invest in your relationships. I don't know about you, but my relationship with Jesus tends to grow stronger when I am going through tough times. When obstacles arise, it is my relationship with Him that matters most. It's where I find my identity. It's where I find my stability. That's what's going to get me through, the steadfast love and faithfulness of my Savior. Invest in that relationship! I'll say more about this in a bit.
We can also lean on family and friends, especially those who are going to lift us up in prayer. Reach out to them. Talk to them. Ask for help. Ask for prayer! Don’t try to do this alone. Let others lift you up and stay connected to those around you.
The names of God, in so many cases, are also beautiful promises. Checkout the blog post 16 Names of God and What They Mean to learn more. Names like The Lord Will Provide, The Lord Is There, The Lord That Heals, The Lord My Shepherd are promises for us to remember and meditate on.
Pay it forward. Focus on others and give back during this season of giving. It may be just what YOU need! Paying it forward will refocus your attention and help ease your own pain and sorrow. It is not only a kind thing to do, it’s a great way to make you feel better about your own situation. We've all heard the saying, "It's better to give than to receive." Quite often the giver receives the bigger blessing. Stepping outside your comfort zone to care for someone else is a wonderful way to show Christlikeness as well. I'm a firm believer that the circumstances God allows in our lives prepare us to help others when those same, or similar, circumstances arise in their life. Look around and see who you can help this Christmas holiday.
Be open to a new normal. This Christmas may not look like last Christmas, and you probably didn't see this coming. The same people might not be present around the table at Christmas dinner this year. Possibly there's be an empty place. Circumstances in your life may have changed to where you cannot have the same holiday that you've enjoyed in the past. This may be the new normal. In your mind you're thinking it's not ideal. It's not something you were prepared for. However, it's the way things are and quite possibly the way things may be going forward. Change is difficult, even in the best of circumstances. Be open to the new normal and realize that this Christmas may not look like Christmases of the past. It's a new chapter in your story, and God will be there in this chapter also. He is faithful! I know.
Be prepared. We ALL need to be prepared.
First, maybe this post is all about you. Possibly the holidays are the worst time of the year for you. You dread it every year. There will be no family gathering on Christmas day, no presents, no home cooked meal. It won't be festive at your house. If that's the case, think ahead of time about the difficult situations you might face this Christmas holiday. Make a game plan. Don't face these situations alone. Reach out and ask for help.
Second, maybe this post is not about you at all. Possibly you're having a great holiday and you anticipate a wonderful Christmas day filled with the love of family and friends, good food, presents and all the festivities we enjoy as we celebrate the birth of our Savior. If that's where you find yourselves this year, you are truly blessed! You too need to be prepared. We all need to be prepared for someday when this post may be about us. We should cultivate a relationship with Jesus NOW so that when our time comes we're not trying to establish a relationship with a God we hardly know.
For most people, the Christmas holiday is one of the happiest times of the year. For others it can be the most difficult, filled with depression and anxiety. If you're one of those who finds it difficult, I hope this post is an encouragement to you. If that's not you though, look around. Do you see someone who is struggling this holiday? If so, please share this post with them and let them know you noticed and you care. We hope it will be an encouragement to them also.
We have entered a season of hope. It's in full swing. THE season of hope! Jesus is our hope and even though the world might try to deny it, ignore it and pretend this season is about something else all together, this season is still all about Him!
"...the plowman should plow in hope and the thresher thresh in hope of sharing in the crop." I Corinthians 9:10
I've been reading recently in I Corinthians and thinking about this season of hope. Even though our culture continues, year after year, to deny what the season is about, the season of hope still remains to be about Jesus, and always will be.
In the secular world the focus of the season is not on the birth of our Savor. However, Christmas still remains one of the most likely times of the year for non-Christians to consider matters of faith. At the same time, it is also one of the most likely times for Christians to have an opportunity to share their story of faith.
Christmas is a magical time! Lights are strung from houses. Stores are full of shoppers. Carols are sung. Cards are sent. Coffee shops serve up seasonal lattes in special cups. People all around the world come together to celebrate the Savior's birth and the angel’s decree of “peace on earth, good will toward men. (Luke 2:14).
During this season of hope Jesus is placed front and center in the cultural eye. People are more open to consider this Hope now more than most any other time of the year. The season of hope arrives with significantly more opportunity for us to share our story of hope and faith with those we cross paths with. The story of hope, the gift of the gospel, is the best gift we can give to everyone on our Christmas list!
Here are a few ideas to help us step out of our comfort zone and talk to non-Christians in our circle of influence about Jesus during this season of hope.
Eyes that are open to the needs around us requires compassion. It means we slow down, look around, and take notice. This is such a busy season in our lives. So many events to attend. So much to do on my "to do" list. But all this busyness involves people. People that need noticing. People that need Jesus! Pray. Rely on God to provide you with and open your eyes to the divine opportunities in your path. Ask Him for courage and the correct words to say. He promises to go before us, to prepare the way and to use our willing spirit.
Loving people means I see them as Jesus sees them. When this happens I am able to talk of the person of Jesus and a relationship with Him and elevate Jesus as the most important part of this season of hope. When I love people and see them as Jesus sees them I see more clearly their need for a Savior, just like someone once saw my need.
Meeting a tangible need may be as simple as helping with a project, babysitting children, providing a meal or financial help. These are all wonderful ways to demonstrate the Gospel in action. Meeting needs will move us out of our comfort zone and give us the opportunity to talk to non-Christians in our circle of influence about Jesus during this season of hope.
Don't get discouraged! Remember I Corinthians 9:10 "...the plowman should plow in hope and the thresher thresh in hope of sharing in the crop." God doesn't require results, He requires a willingness to be used of Him. Just like the plowman and the thresher, our responsibility is to plow and plant seeds of hope, and to thresh in hope of sharing in the crop.
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