What Does The Name Immanuel Mean?
What does the name Immanuel mean?
One of the names we often associate with Jesus at Christmas time is the name “Immanuel.” We associate it with Christmas because it is the name Matthew emphasizes in his narrative of Jesus’ birth. He tells us that the birth of Jesus was the ultimate fulfillment of a prophecy given by Isaiah many centuries before, that a virgin would conceive and give birth to a son, and his name would be Immanuel, which means “God with us” (Mt. 1:22-23, cf. Is. 7:6).
There are two ways we could understand the phrase “God with us.” First, we could understand it in a more generic sense, to mean that God is near to us, or he is concerned about us and intends to help us. This is almost certainly the first meaning that was intended by Isaiah’s prophecy. The child that he spoke of was to be a sign of God’s protection given to King Ahaz during a time when the nation of Judah was being threatened by an alliance between the kings of Aram and the Northern nation of Israel (2 Ki. 16:5-6). The child whose birth Isaiah predicts may actually have been his own child, born to the woman who would become his wife sometime after the prophecy was given, and was therefore a virgin at the time of the prophecy.
The second way to understand the name is to see it as a statement about the person who bears the name. This is most certainly how Matthew intends us to understand it. The child born to Mary and Joseph fulfills Isaiah’s prophecy in an entirely new way. Unlike the mother of the first Immanuel, who conceived in the natural way, Mary was a virgin who, Matthew says, conceived through the Holy Spirit. In the same way, the child who was born to her is not only a sign of God’s nearness and help for his people, he actually embodies God’s presence. In Jesus, God is literally with us because Jesus is himself God in the flesh!
The name, Immanuel, then, expresses the very heart of Christmas. God has not only come to our aid, he has actually come to us, by becoming one of us! Though John, in his gospel, doesn’t use the name Immanuel for Jesus, he gives us a fitting definition: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (Jn. 1:1, 14).
Pastor Jon EnrightDecember 5, 2015