The Francis Asbury Society

God With Us

Posted on | December 20, 2010 | Comments Off on God With Us

by Rachel Coleman

“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).

Immanuel—a strange name for a baby! As Matthew the Evangelist explains to his non-Hebrew-speaking readers, this odd name means “God with us.” Even for a post-modern world unaccustomed to biblical language and imagery, the unusual word is inextricably linked to the Advent season by the familiar musical strains of songs like “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.”

As we listened to the familiar Advent texts in worship yesterday, something our pastor said sent me down a “thinkin’ path” about this strange yet familiar name. Immanuel, “God with us” – that is a reality is at once profoundly comforting and supremely disquieting, as the original context of Isaiah’s prophecy made clear. In my own response to the promise of Immanuel, especially during Advent, I’ve focused almost exclusively on the COMFORT: God’s presence, his power, his shalom and grace extended to us, his ability to identify with us through the Incarnation, his accessibility in relationship through the Holy Spirit. This is good news indeed, easily recognizable as such!

What struck me forcibly yesterday was “the other side of the coin.” The reality of Immanuel is also deeply disquieting, a good news that is neither so comfortable nor so easily recognized. There is a DISCOMFORT to “God with us”—his sovereignty and divine purposes are in our midst, calling us to adjust our will, our worldview, our paradigms to his. Immanuel is what the disciples experienced during the three years they spent with Jesus—deeply comforted and hope-filled while simultaneously stretched and re-shaped in ways that were painful and completely unexpected.

May we experience the fullness of the reality of Immanuel during these Advent and Christmas seasons!

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