The Layers of Immanuel

The title "Immanuel" comes from the Hebrew: עִמָּנוּאֵל which means, "God with us". You may have also see the romanized version of this spelled Emmanuel. However you have seen it, if you are a Christian attending worship in the month of December, chances are you have heard this before. 

When Christians talk about Jesus as "Immanuel" we may overlook a few of the layers of the implications of "God with us". I invite you consider at least three layers embedded in the Good News of "God with us".

  • God with us as in God is among us - such as in the Gospel of John which says that Jesus pitched tent and dwelt with us. God with us as a traveling companion and who walks with and beside us. This pastoral image of God with us, is not only comforting but also empowering because God is among us. 
  • God with us as in God is an advocate for us - Jesus reminds us that with the advent of the Holy Spirit the disciples will have an Advocate to remind them of all that Jesus has taught. God with us as advocate clearly calls to mind the image of God as a defense attorney standing up for us against the accuser (which is the role of Satan in the Bible. Satan is the character that stands in for humans when humans take a posture of accusing rather than advocating).
  • God with us as opposed to God without us, meaning that God chooses to be with us rather than going it alone or without us. God is not out there doing things without us, but Immanuel implies that God is with us and all our limitations. The very idea that God would choose to work with humans is remarkable and if that is not Good News I am not sure I know what Good News may be.

So when we hear the Gospel story this Advent and Christmas seasons might we reflect just a bit more on the depth of Immanuel - God with us.