Immanuel: The Hope of the Ages
There is a thread that runs through all of Scripture, from the first words to the last. From the moment when the curtain rises on the blackness before the cosmos – “In the beginning, God” – to the final whispered benediction on the pages of our Bibles, this thread never breaks.
It’s the theme of ages, and it can be summed up in one word. Immanuel. God with us.
That’s what it’s always been about – this relationship between mortal and immortal, creature and Creator. It’s about fellowship, about together-ness. The King of Ages breathed a world into existence so that we could know Him, love Him, and be loved by Him.
It began in a garden, with God stepping down and reaching out life-giving hands, forming humanity with the caress of his fingertips and the kiss of His breath. And in the garden, too, it was shattered. God’s creatures chose rebellion over fellowship, and shame came between.
But that’s not the end of the story – it’s only the very start. Throughout history, throughout the pages of the Bible, we see God relentlessly pursuing closeness with His people. He wants a relationship – based not on merit, but on covenant. We see it in Exodus, when God’s glory comes down like a cloud to dwell in the middle of His people. “I will dwell among the sons of Israel, and will be their God.” We see it in Joshua, when God walks enemy territory with drawn sword, and proclaims to the fearing faithful, “Now I have come – take off your shoes. I will not leave you or forsake you.” We see it in the psalmist’s passionate prayers. “I fear no evil, for you are with me… I awake and I am still with you… You hold my right hand… In your presence there is fullness of joy.”
Immanuel is the theme of the prophets, God pleading with His people to repent so that He can again be present in their midst. He pours out His love undisguised. “I will allure her and bring her into the wilderness and speak tenderly to her.” “I myself will search for my sheep and seek them out – I will be the shepherd. I will seek the lost and strengthen the weak. You are my sheep and I am your God.” “Return, Israel, to the Lord your God.”
Malachi closed his prophecy with a triumphant foretelling of the dawn of the Sun of Righteousness. Anticipation must have been strong for the people of his day. When was the Messenger of the Covenant coming?
But then, silence. Four hundred years of silence. God was setting the stage, preparing all things for the climax of history. For the birth of the living Immanuel.
Christmas is the culmination of ages of waiting, the fulfillment of prophecies and promises.
Christmas means that God came to us.
God became like us.
When we were trapped in sin and shame, God did the inconceivable. He broke into our world, into our history, and clothed Himself in humanity. He wanted to be with us – we would not come to Him, and so He came to us. “And the Word became flesh, and lived among us, and we saw His glory.”
These are the words that give us hope at Christmas time. God is with us. He wants to be with us – to be our Immanuel God. Christ’s birth fulfilled all God’s promises for a unique coming, a special kind of nearness.
Christ came to earth so that He could live with us. He paid for our sin so that He could live in us. Celebrating Christmas gives us hope that one day we will see the Triune God face to face, never more to be separated.