I love to sing Christmas carols. I can sing many of them from memory because they have been sung every year since my childhood. I often recite the lyrics without thought to the meaning or to the reason for its writing.
Do you know this carol?
O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel
Emmanuel, also written Immanuel, means God with us, or since "El" is at the end, it is literally With us is God. The prophet Isaiah foretold of the coming of Immanuel, when God would come to his people and save them from their sins. (Isaiah 7:14) The Israelites were surrounded by enemies and troubles. Isaiah comforted them with this promise. The faithful believers cherished the presence of their God, who was their only hope of protection and of blessing. They treasured the prophet's words and waited for God to come to them bringing freedom from oppression.
When Jesus, was born in Bethlehem, God did come to be with us. He came to earth as fully human and lived with his people. Although he was human, he lived a perfect life, without sin, and when the time was right, he went to the cross as the perfect sacrifice to save his people from their sins. He ransomed a captive people. With his death and resurrection, he destroyed the fear of death and the control of sin. Jesus said to his disciples, "I am with you always, to the very end of the age.'
Even when Jesus ascended to heaven, departing physically, he provided his presence. He sent the Holy Spirit to indwell each believer making a personal connection. God is with us. The Holy Spirit is a source of blessing and protection for all believers forming the church on earth. (2 Corinthians 5:8)
When we die and depart this earth as believers, we are with Christ and will return with him when he makes his return. 1 Thessalonians 3.13 tells us that he will return with his holy ones.
And after the final judgment, when there is no more sin in the world, Christ will be with his people forever in the new heaven and the new earth. Revelation 21:3 tells us that God's dwelling place is among the people and he lives with them.
I know what it is to be a captive of sin. I know what it is to feel exiled from the love of God. But since I met Jesus, I know what it means to be saved and I know God's presence.
Emmanuel or Immanuel: I treasure the ancient meaning. God with us.
* The name Jesus means the Lord saves.