This morning at church we sang the old familar chorus, “Emmanuel.” The words are simple and uplifting:
Emmanuel, Emmanuel. His name is called Emmanuel. God with us, revealed in us. His name is called Emmanuel.
The spirit of the song caused my heart to swell with praise and gratitude. In Hebrew “Emmanuel” means “God (is) with us.” This seemed so sweet to me this season with the passing of my father-in-law. Through the initial shock, the struggle of illness, the death, and the lying to rest. God is with us! How we felt Him in the valley. How we feel Him now on the threshold of Christmas, and our wound is just beginning to heal. Still we hear God’s message to us that He is near.
Here is a picture of Christ by Heinrich Hofmann, German painter. This is how he saw Jesus, as a German, as a European, in his mind and heart in the 1800’s.
Here is a painting of the birth of Christ by Dutch painter Gerard van Honthorst. This is how he pictured the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem. Notice how European everyone looks!
A quick look through God’s Word reveals that Jesus has many, many names. In Isaiah He is called “Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace… ” These are just a few. See here’s the deal with all the names of God. He is what meets our need where we are as world citizens. He is decidely Italian to Italians. He is Dutch to the Dutch, German to the Germans, American to Americans. He understands us and reaches out to us through our culture and family background. That is why we see Him like we see ourselves–as one of us, where we live.
One of my favorite names for God is “I Am.” In Hebrew, this is translated Yehiyeh or “I will be.” It is not present tense. It is a name that is future tense. The essence of the future tense, “I will be.”
Humankind expends so much energy on fear about the future. It just seems natural to who we are. I can imagine now my sweet mother-in-law having concern for a future without her husband. I would be no different.
That is exactly why God’s name is “I will be.” He will be what we need tomorrow. No need to fret. No need to stew. He will be. God’s heart is so compassionate to the widow, the orphan, to all who call on His Name to be what they need.
God is so in love with mankind, so smitten with wooing us into relationship with Him that He “will be” whatever we need in the future. What a foundation of hope this offers to those who put their trust in Him.
Right now, in this moment, I am snuggling in with Emmanuel–“God with us.” That is the face and Spirit of the God I need now. Someone close. Someone near. Someone to fold their arms around an aching heart.
God is with me–Emmanuel.