As we fast approach Christmas, we remember the words of Isaiah 7:14: “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a miraculous sign: Look! The virgin will become pregnant and give birth to a Son, and she will call His name ‘Immanuel.’”
Immanuel; that was to be the name of the Virgin’s Son. Immanuel, literally “God with us;” and the literal meaning conveyed literal truth. In other words, the Son would not symbolise that God was here, but the Son would be God here. With us.
When Gabriel is sent to Mary to tell her that she would be the mother of Jesus (Luke 1:26-38), he begins with an Immanuel sort of greeting: “Rejoice, highly favoured one, the Lord is with you.” The angel means exactly that: The Lord of heaven and earth is now a microscopic zygote clinging to the wall in Mary’s womb, become flesh just like you and on the way to the cross.
Sinful man doesn’t deal with the Incarnation well at all. If God is “way out there” somewhere, that’s okay, because then He’s out of touch and man can compensate with his sinful ideas. If Jesus is just a human being, that’s okay, too, because then He’s just one wise teacher among many and man can obey what he wishes. All sorts of “experts” waste a lot of journal articles denying that Jesus could be God and man. How arrogant of man to argue that God can only do things that we can understand and replicate, the virgin birth being a prime example. Man still wants God created in man’s image. But man’s “wisdom” is really Satan’s deception to rob you of hope. If Jesus were only God, He couldn’t take your place and die for your sin; if He were only man, He couldn’t die for the sins of the world. When one denies the virgin birth, he is also denying the other miracles of Jesus that man cannot replicate, like His atonement for the sins of the world and the resurrection of the dead. Tragically, many would rather question Mary’s virtue than believe in Christ for eternal life.
Ah, but for you there is far better. Before prayer in the Divine Service, the pastor greets you, “The Lord be with you!” As you then pray, you do not pray alone. Jesus prays with you. He is your High Priest who can sympathise with your weaknesses because He became flesh (Heb. 4:15), and who constantly prays and intercedes for you forever (Heb 7:25) – forever because He is also God. Even better, just after the Words of Institution, the pastor declares, “The peace of the Lord be with you always.” Why? Because the Lord is present with His body and blood in the Supper, bringing peace and grace. And then you pray, because He is with you, “O Christ, Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world, have mercy upon us.” It’s the same Lord with the same body and blood that was conceived in Mary, nailed to the cross, and raised from the dead for your salvation. Immanuel, “God with us,” is with you.