Christ our Immanuel (God with us)
In the year 325, the first council of Nicea gathered to condemn Arius for his teaching that Jesus was not fully God. Nicholas of Myra attended this council, who you may know as Saint Nicholas, the inspiration for Santa Claus. At this council, Nicholas rebuked Arius for his heresy, growing so upset that he slapped him in the face! So there you have it — Santa Claus the valiant defender of the divinity of Christ! From this we get such Christmas classics as “Deck them all for all their folly” and “Santa Claus is coming to town.”
Like Nicholas, it is vital that we see that Jesus is both fully God and fully man. Most importantly, this is the only way that he can serve as our mediator, and bear the wrath of God in our place. But there are other ways that this brings comfort to us. Jesus is our Immanuel, God with us (Isaiah 7:14, Matthew 1:22-23). This doesn’t simply mean that he showed up in person once, two thousand years ago. God’s word is full of encouragement that he is God-with-us here and now.
First, Jesus is our Immanuel because he is the image of God our Father. John says that “no one has ever seen God,” but that Jesus, “the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known” (John 1:18). Jesus says that “whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). Paul writes that “in [Jesus] all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell” (Colossians 1:19). Even though we have never seen God, when we see Jesus on display in the word—his love, his kindness, his demand of our complete loyalty — we are seeing God himself. Through his word, we see God! Jesus is God with us.
Second, Jesus is our Immanuel because he is God “become flesh” (John 1:14). He identified with us and understands us. Paul reminds us that Jesus stooped low to become a man — “though he was in the form of God, [he] did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:5-8). Hebrews encourages us that Jesus’s becoming flesh means that he can “sympathize with our weaknesses,” since “in every respect [he] has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” Not only does he sympathize with us, but since he also served as a perfect substitute in our place, he is able to give us “mercy and grace to help [us] in time of need” (Hebrews 4:15-16). As John writes, he is “full of grace and truth” (John 1:14) to us.
Third, Jesus is our Immanuel because he gave us the “Spirit of [God’s] son” (Galatians 4:6). Jesus promised that he would “send to you from the Father [the Helper], the Spirit of truth” (John 15:26). John says that Jesus “gives the Spirit without measure” (John 3:34). Through the Holy Spirit, Jesus fulfills his promise to be “with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 8:20). The Holy Spirit is the very presence and power and comfort of God in our lives. The Spirit is near to us in a much greater and better way than Israel ever experienced as God dwelled with them in the Old Testament. Through his life-giving Spirit, Jesus is God with us.
Finally, the most precious way that Jesus is near to us is that we are united to him in our salvation. This is the root of our very life. Our salvation isn’t dispensed from afar, like a mail-order pharmacy. When we are saved, we are joined to Jesus our savior. Paul declares that “in him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). Jesus says that “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). And in a powerful passage in Romans, Paul declares this:
We were buried therefore with [Christ Jesus] by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ being raised from the dead will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. (Romans 6:3-11)
From this we know that in Jesus’s own death, we died with him to sin. And in Jesus’s own resurrection, we are raised to life. His death is our death, and his life is our life. In our salvation, we are joined to him and receive his very life! What comfort and power and assurance there is in this nearness to him!
Because of this nearness that we enjoy in Jesus, we experience adoption as God’s own children (Galatians 4:4-5), and Jesus becomes our refuge and protection (Isaiah 8:10, Psalm 46:7, Zechariah 8:23). In fact, scripture says that we receive “every spiritual blessing” (Ephesians 1:3-5) in Jesus. And in turn, he uses us as his people to bring himself near to others (John 20:21-22).
Thanks be to Christ our Immanuel!