What’s one thing everyone has in common?
There are many answers to that question, but I think the most significant one is that we all have a name. For the great majority of us, it’s a name given to us by our parents.
Perhaps you’ve wondered why Mom and Dad gave you that particular moniker. How did they decide on it? Is it a family name, passed down from generation to generation? Or is it a name that was plucked out of thin air?
My wife’s name falls into that last category. Most people assume that her name is short for Penelope, but it’s not. The story goes that her parents were broke when she was born, and when asked what the baby’s name would be her father piped up, “Let’s call her Penny so we’ll always have a penny to our name!” And Penny it was.
I didn’t realize that names had specific meanings until after I became a Christian. I was excited to learn that my name, Timothy, means “honoring God.” As a new follower of Christ, I thought that was pretty awesome! When I asked my mother if my name was chosen because of its meaning, she shook her head and said, “No, it was just a good Irish Catholic name.” (Guess I got lucky on that one.)
Names Are Important
Names are important. In Bible days, the Jews put great thought into the selection of a name. Names were carefully chosen for their meaning and significance.
At Christmas we are reminded of a particularly special name, one that is seldom heard the rest of the year. It’s a beautiful name, found in an Old Testament prophecy about the Messiah: “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: the virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14).
This prophecy is amazing for several reasons. It speaks of the Messiah’s miraculous birth through a virgin. It was written more than 700 years before its fulfillment. Matthew quotes this verse when he tells of the birth of Jesus in his gospel (Matthew 1:23). The Christmas carol “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” uses prophetic phrases from Isaiah that tell about God sending a Savior.
But the most amazing thing is the promise in the name. The Hebrew name Immanuel (or Emmanuel in the Greek) means “God with us.”
“God With Us”
Let that marinate in your mind for a moment. “God with us…God with us…”
The concept of “God with us” can be traced all the way back to Genesis and the Garden of Eden, when God would walk with Adam and Eve in the cool of the day (Genesis 3:8). Ever since the fall of man and the birth of sin, God has longed to restore that intimacy with us. That’s why He sent His Son to earth, to take our punishment on the cross so that our sins, which separate us from God, could be forgiven. Because of His sacrifice, we can be reunited with God forever. When we pray and ask Jesus to be our Savior, He comes to live in our heart and is always with (and within) us.
God’s desire to be with us is so great that He speaks the phrase “I am with you” or “I will be with you” an astounding 83 times in His Word! Just before He ascended into heaven, Jesus made a promise to His disciples: “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). God always keeps His promises.
“I Will Be With You Always”
As I write this, we are entering the Christmas season. But everything is not merry and bright. Again the Covid rates are climbing, and again some will miss out on family gatherings. There are those who have to deal with strained or broken family relationships and memories of past hurts. Some are fighting desperately to resist the temptation of addiction, while others struggle with chronic illness. Many have lost loved ones. The strain of the pandemic has led to increased depression and anxiety, and the media trumpets gloom and doom. Some would say it doesn’t feel like Christmas at all.
If any of this describes you, I have good news. Remember the promise of Emmanuel: “God with us.” God came down that first Christmas, and He is with us still. He understands your pain. His arms are open wide, and He still offers comfort and joy.
Christ is born. Emmanuel has come. God is with us.
May you experience His love and peace, this Christmas and always.
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