Immanuel is something I have been particularly focused on since my time in Lima, Peru back in September. Our team-leader Marty had us listen and meditate on the words to the Chris Rice song, “Welcome Holy Child.” We were challenged to think about how Christ came to earth and his heart for the physical and spiritual needs of all who came to him as we were serving in a poor shanty town.
As I remember Christ’s birth especially this time of year I am awed to think he came, dwelt among us and felt all the emotions I feel (of course he didn’t experience the sorrow of personal sin which I have in abundance). I guess I usually think more about Jesus was born to be the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. But I skip over the part of God-with-us. Before the cross Jesus first “made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of man.” “He had compassion on her.” “He rejoiced in the Holy Spirit.” He knew rejection, “he came to his own and his own people did not receive him.” He knew the sorrow of a loved one who was sick and died. Henri Nouwen said, “As soon as we call him, “God-with-us,” we enter into an new relationship of intimacy with him. By calling him Immanuel, we recognize that he has committed himself to live in solidarity with us, to share our joys and pains, to defend and protect us, and to suffer all of life with us. The God-with-us is a close God, a God whom we call our refuge, our stronghold, our wisdom and even more intimately, our helper, our shepherd, our love. We will never really know God as a compassionate God if we do not understand with our heart and mind that “he lived among us.” (John 1:14) I want to know this compassionate God and am grateful He became flesh and dwelt among us.