This past Sunday I preached on just one word from this famous verse. But it’s a very powerful word. It’s a very Christmas word. It’s the thought I want to share with you this week.
Immanuel, one could argue, is one of the most beautiful words/expressions in the English language. It’s not a mere collection of sounds as many names are, but really, in English, a phrase that means “God With Us.” But think just for a moment about how the reality of who Jesus is would be changed if that little preposition “with” was changed.
If Jesus was God “in front of/ahead of” us, he’d be blazing a trail for us. This is essentially the teaching of the Mormon faith, that if we live like him we can become a god like him. But if this is who Jesus was, we’d never be able to keep up. We’d never be able to walk in those footsteps. That wouldn’t work.
If Jesus was God “after/following/behind” us, he’d be pushing us and moving us forward as an impersonal force. This is essentially the teaching of pantheistic Eastern religions. But if this is who Jesus was, we’d be floundering around directionless and leaderless, dependent on our own ability to navigate through life. That wouldn’t work either.
If Jesus was God “above/beyond” us, he’d be looking down upon us from a distance. This is essentially the teaching of Deism, an understanding that God is out there and that he set the world in motion, but that he has primarily a “hands off” policy concerning it now. But if this is who Jesus was, he’d be so aloof that he’d never experientially know our problems nor be willing to dirty his hands with the our sins. That also wouldn’t work.
If Jesus was God “below/beneath” us, our wisdom, our understanding, our feelings, and our choices would be supreme. This is essentially the teaching of liberal Christianity. But if this is who Jesus was, he’d be too weak, powerless to defeat the enemies that are too big for us or carry the weight of struggles too heavy for us.
If Jesus, God forbid, was God “against” us, he’d be mercilessly out to get us. Though they wouldn’t admit it, I would suggest to you that this is essentially the belief of atheists and agnostics. Most objections to God today are not scientific, but appear to be personal, i.e. people don’t like the way God operates so they choose not to believe in him. But if this is who Jesus was, “against” us, we obviously wouldn’t stand a chance.
Fortunately, Jesus is none of these things. He’s God “WITH” us. And if he’s God “WITH” us, then he’s clearly God “FOR” us. And finally, as the Apostle Paul says, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31) This is the true peace of the season.