I recently read an article that claimed there are 948 names, or titles, for God throughout the Bible. As we enter into the Christmas season, one name of Jesus that is often emphasized is Immanuel, a Hebrew word that is literally translated, “God with Us”.
Hundreds of years before Jesus was born, the prophet Isaiah foretold the birth of Jesus, using the name Immanuel: “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14).
In the Old Testament there was detailed protocol and stringent requirements on how to approach God. The Holy Spirit would come upon people for temporary assignments, but would not permanently rest upon God’s children. Yes, there was a basic level of prayer and communion with God, but only the High Priest, once a year, could go into the Holy of Holies and enter into the manifest presence of Jehovah God while repenting for the sins of the nation of Israel.
Then Jesus stepped into time and space and everything changed. The Messiah who will one day rule the nations was born in a vilest of conditions and laid in a manger used to feed livestock for His bassinet. The One who created the universe and everything in it became a “friend of sinners” (Luke 7:34) and made Himself available and approachable to the world.
The omniscience of Jesus is simply mind-blowing to me. Our closest family members aren’t always accessible or available when we need them. The best of friends often can’t drop anything and everything and show up at a moment’s notice. My wife Danielle, my best friend and partner, can’t answer the phone every time I call. But the Christ of Christmas, Immanuel, is “God With Us”. Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, Jesus is as close as my next breath!
When Jesus was preparing to leave earth to go back to Heaven, He told His disciples (who were mourning the fact that He was about to depart), “It is better for you that I go away: for if I go not away the Comforter will not come” (John 16:7). That’s such an odd thing for Jesus to say. If I had a choice between Jesus and the Comforter (the invisible Holy Spirit), I would choose Jesus! Jesus in the flesh. The Jesus you could see and touch and hear and smell. But Jesus knew that even when He was on earth, He could not always be in the physical presence of His disciples. There were times that Jesus withdrew by Himself to go pray or sent the disciples away on missions without Him. The Holy Spirit, however—the Spirit of Jesus—indwells God’s children permanently! There is never a moment when I’m alone and there’s never a time or a place where I can’t call on Him.
For the last few months I haven’t been able to listen to music in my car. Long story about how a body shop inadvertently damaged my back speakers while reassembling the bumper after my car got rear-ended.. and is now giving me the runaround about fixing them. Bottom line: I’ve been without the ability to listen to any music or talk radio in my car for the last three months or so. To help remedy this, I usually try to see who’s available to talk on the phone. If Danielle’s not available I might try a few friends. Many times, I find, there’s no one to talk to and I end up driving in silence. Every once and a while, the reality will hit me that Jesus is in the car with me! I can talk to Him and I can hear His voice anytime I choose to enter that realm of prayer and communion with Him. I’ve had some precious prayer times, praying out loud in the car, and I’m a little disappointed in myself that I’m not aware of His permanent indwelling more than I am.
My prayer over this Christmas season is that I would draw closer to Immanuel, God With Us, than I ever have before. I pray the same for you. Let’s remember that this season—and life, in general—isn’t about the presents but the Presence.