All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us). (Matthew 1:22–23)
I have contended that we can summarize the entire story of the Bible with the name Immanuel. Thus, Immanuel is more than the story of Christmas, but it is certainly not less.
God with us
The inescapable, mind-bending miracle of Christmas is that God became man. The one who breathed humanity into existence took human breaths as a baby.
The reason is not particularly romantic. The Creator set the rules in the garden and we set them aflame. Divine action was the only path to reunion.
We did not need a superhero, a military general, or a crowd-rousing activist; we needed God himself to come. To breathe. To cough and walk and laugh and cry in our midst. We needed Jesus to do all that we could not and would not do.
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. (John 1:14)
God with us
We once had easy access to and comfortable fellowship with God in the garden. Adam and Eve were with God before the curse was found anywhere.
God has come near at times after Eden. He visited patriarchs, delivered stone tablets, and filled temples. But even those who knew God intimately experienced profound, confusing distance from him.
Why, O Lord, do you stand far away?
Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble? (Psalm 10:1)
On this side of eternity, we have a longing to be home, to once again walk with the God who made us. We want to be with God, without any of the danger and panic such an encounter arouses within sinners.
Even as the Son of God came, he was with us for a mere moment. Jesus died. God was with us temporarily so that God might be with us (by his Spirit) and so that his people might be with him permanently.
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.” (Revelation 21:3)
God with us
Christmas brings about community almost by definition. Immanuel means God with us, not God with me.
We all relate to God individually, but we don’t relate to him alone. Those who are God’s are brought into a community and family.
We are no longer alone. God is with us, and by virtue of God being with us, others are with us too. This may not be a physical reality for some Christians now, but it is a mystical truth and a coming reality. Christmas means the dawning of the end of loneliness.
“Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him;
I will protect him, because he knows my name.
When he calls to me, I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble;
I will rescue him and honor him.
With long life I will satisfy him
and show him my salvation.” (Psalm 91:14–16)