“The name of Immanuel is one that we hear often at Christmas. It fills our Christmas carols, graces the cover of beautiful Christmas cards, and shows up in church bulletins as the title of the Sunday sermon. But do we know what Immanuel means? In one sense, we know that it means “God with us” because the two most well known passages about Immanuel make this very clear. But the question that I am posing is a bit deeper than that. Do we know what it means that Jesus is Immanuel? Do we understand the implications of a God who takes on flesh and dwells with His people? Do we understand what it means that God became like those that He created for the purpose of redeeming them?” (excerpted from Week 1, Day 3 of Immanuel: God with us from Eden to Eternity by The Daily Grace Co)
This was the opening paragraph for Day 3 of my Advent Study and let me just tell you, it did nothing but get better! Week one was all about the word “Immanuel” and how it not only means “God with Us”, it tells the purpose for all of what God has done – from creation until now. The Bible, in its entirety is the story of Immanuel. God created the earth and its inhabitants, pursued people and sent His Son to come all because He wanted to be WITH US. From before the world began, God’s plans included us. Not because He NEEDED us, but because He desired relationship with us and desired that we live our life in love with Him and giving Him the glory for all things. From the beginning, He knew that sin would enter the world and distort that relationship. He knew that we would need a Savior. He knew that He would have to sacrifice His Son….and yet, because He wanted to be IMMANUEL- GOD WITH US, He created us anyway. Jesus was always in His redemption plans; He was never plan B.
Toward the end of Week 1 we read the story of Adam and Eve and learned how it is so clear that God has pursued us from the beginning. Despite them questioning what God said and choosing to disobey, He called out to them. “He came with questions that revealed their need. But when He came pursuing them, He did not come to bring shame, but to erase it” (Immanuel, p.21). And how do we know that? Because despite the eternal consequences that the world received through them, God also made the first animal sacrifice in order to clothe them (Genesis 3:21). He took away their futile attempt at covering their sin and gave them something more substantial. In the same way, years down the road, Jesus came to take away OUR attempts at covering sin and shame so that we can one day walk with our God in the garden, enjoying His presence and having Him be, literally, God with us.
The final day of week 1 looked at the story of Abraham and how God is a God of covenant. He came to Abram with promises – that he would inherit a great land, have many descendents and that “there would be a seed of Abram that would bring blessing to all families of the world” (Immanuel, p.26). Abram had every right to question God’s words and respond with a lack of faith, and at times he did. But deep down he trusted. He obeyed. He followed the Lord in faith and from that great Patriarch we know comes the lineage of Jesus. The most interesting thing I learned on this day was about the covenant-keeping ceremony that God performed with Abram:
7 And he said to him, “I am the Lord who brought you out from Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to possess.” 8 But he said, “O Lord God, how am I to know that I shall possess it?” 9 He said to him, “Bring me a heifer three years old, a female goat three years old, a ram three years old, a turtledove, and a young pigeon.” 10 And he brought him all these, cut them in half, and laid each half over against the other. But he did not cut the birds in half. 11 And when birds of prey came down on the carcasses, Abram drove them away 12 As the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell on Abram. And behold, dreadful and great darkness fell upon him. 13 Then the Lord said to Abram, “Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years. 14 But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions. 15 As for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried in a good old age. 16 And they shall come back here in the fourth generation, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.” 17 When the sun had gone down and it was dark, behold, a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces. 18 On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, “To your offspring I give[c] this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates, 19 the land of the Kenites, the Kenizzites, the Kadmonites, 20 the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, 21 the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites and the Jebusites.” (Genesis 15:7-21)
“Though the ceremony seems strange to us, it was a common ritual at the time between kings of the nations. The kings would make an agreement and then the lesser king would pass through the carcasses of divided animals. The symbolism was that if the covenant was broken, the lesser king would end up like these animals. It was a covenant signed in blood. As Abram brought the animals and cut them in half just like God had asked, no doubt he was waiting for God to cue him to walk through the divided animals, but that isn’t what happened. Instead, God put Abram to sleep. And then, God Himself passed through the divided animals. God was declaring that this covenant was not depended on Abram, but on God Himself. This covenant was signed in blood, and the cost of the promise was taken on God Himself. God would pay with His own life. Abraham’s response could only be faith and trust that God would do what He had promised” (Immanuel, p. 26)
And sweet friends, God did keep those promises. John 1:14 says that “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” He came to earth to be Immanuel, God with us so that we could forever be in His presence. He loves us, pursues us and has made a covenant with us so that “whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). He truly is IMMANUEL.
I started this page by piecing together some green washi tape from my stash to make a Christmas tree in the middle. I then got my Script Outline Alpha stamp and spelled out the word “Immanuel” on the side with Versafine Ink. Then, I stamped “God with us” with Teeny Alpha. Once all the words were in place, I stamped the patterned ornament from Deck the Halls, masked it and stamped the solid ornament so that it appeared to be behind the other one. The holly is also from Deck the Halls, but it is stamped with Festive Berries and Pine Needles Distress Oxides. I colored in the spaces of “Immanuel” and the ornaments with Prismacolor colored pencils and distressed the edges of the page with Festive Berries and Pine Needles. The finishing touches were the tab at the top, adorned with a sentiment from Christmas Wordfetti, some splatter paint with my Neocolor ii crayons (scarlet and grass green) and more glitter washi tape 🙂
Arteza Water Brush
Gelly Roll Pen
Illustrated Faith Precision Pen
Ranger Ink Blending Tool