Although Isaiah 7:14 is a Scripture traditionally the focus of Christmas services, it’s always good to reflect on the fact that Jesus is ‘Immanuel, God with us’. Mark spoke on this topic last night, starting by commenting that we perhaps would not really want any person to be with us every second of every day! In the Old Testament, God’s presence was with people at certain times (eg with the ark of the covenant or God’s Spirit resting on prophets at times), but His presence was not always visible or permanent. In the New Testament, Jesus came to dwell with manking and remains with us through His Spirit.

Isaiah 7:14 is Isaiah’s prophecy predicting the arrival of Jesus, ‘a human baby bearing undiminished deity’ (in the words of Michael Card, in his song ‘Immanuel’). Matthew 1:21-23 records the fulfilment of that prophecy. The meaning of the word ‘Immanuel’ is rich:

* ‘God’ = the awesome creator, the Alpha and the Omega, the omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent God, dwelling ‘with’; – accompanying, by the side of; ‘us’, available to all people everywhere. God is with us in every situation: in times of trouble and of need, in times of happiness and joy; even when we perhaps do not want Him to be with us, such as in times of our disobedience and sin. He knows our thoughts as well as our words and is with us at all times (see Psalm 139:1-14).

Isaiah 8:5-10 again refers to God as ‘Immanuel’. Even when the people of Israel felt shattered by captivity and sin, God was still working on their behalf. They had to bear the consequences of their sin, but they were not forsaken by God. We are never abandoned by Him.

God’s presence with us brings responsibility to us. We need to live our lives with an awareness of His presence.

‘Immanuel’, Michael Card