The Real Meaning Of Christmas: Immanuel
“Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” —Isaiah 7:14
The first century of the church was an extremely difficult period of time for the church and for the world. The emperor of Rome, at the birth of Christ, was the famous Augustus Caesar. He ruled with an iron fist over the entire Roman empire for forty-one years.
Throughout the scores of geographical areas and Roman provinces of the world, the citizens of those countries knew that they must live, function, and do business in accordance with the laws of Rome. The Roman emperor stationed companies of soldiers in every province, nation, and many cities. Roman soldiers were everywhere and were watching everyone. You will recall that Joseph and Mary, though Mary was “great with child,” were required to journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem, their ancestral town, to fulfill the demands of Rome in respect to taxation. This was a journey on horseback of about 180 miles. Rome taxed every country heavily and took the gold and silver back to Rome to pay for the extravagant sinful lives of the emperor, his family, and the nobility of Rome.
At about 5 BC, when Jesus was born, the Jews had been controlled and suppressed by the Romans for about sixty years. For Israel, this was a time of severe economic pressure from Rome. The majority of the Jewish population were of the Pharisee persuasion. The nobility of Jerusalem were wealthy Sadducees, and they controlled the vast financial activity of Jerusalem and the temple. The Jewish culture embraced a religion of bondage. Legalism controlled everything including dress, hair, food choices, temple duties, synagogue activities, and even neighbors being neighbors. The Jews were very religious, but in reality they were lost in their sins. The Jewish world was in darkness. Oh, how they needed a savior.
I want to underscore and emphasize three reasons why the loving Father God had to send His only begotten Son to this dark world, to intervene for the salvation of mankind.
First, the incarnation of Christ allowed for Christ, the Son of God, to identify with mankind in a manner unlike any time in history.
John, the beloved apostle, wrote in John1:1, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” Verse 14 reads, “And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.”
Paul wrote in Philippians 2:7-8, “But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.”
Hebrews 4:15 reads, “For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are yet without sin.”
He identified with our pain, our heartache, our fears, and our hopes. The Christmas story is about the incarnation, and the incarnation shows us that God loves us completely and totally, in spite of our sins and problems. The Jesus of the Gospels was God wrapped in human flesh (John 1:14), God becoming the Son of Man, and doing all that He could to reconcile (Col. 1:20) a hurting broken world back to God the Father.
Second, the incarnation of Christ provided for the offering of the ultimate sacrifice for the sin of the world.
In Matthew 1:20-21, the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph saying, “Fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife; for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.”
The Jewish world and the whole Roman world needed a savior.
John 1:29 reads, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.”
I John 2:2 says, “And he is the propitiation for ours sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.”
In Ephesians 2:13, Paul writes, “But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ”; in verse 16: “And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross.”
When Jesus was born in Bethlehem, the angels cried out, “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11).
Christ is Immanuel, that is, “God with us.” The reality of the Christmas story makes possible the redemption of each person who is a lost sinner.
Our heavenly Father sent Christ, His Son, to this earth to show us how much He loves us (John 3:16).
Third, the incarnation of Christ makes it possible for all peoples to experience the abundant life of victory and peace.
In John 10:10, Jesus said, “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.”
Paul wrote in Ephesians 3:20, “Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think according to the power that worketh in us.”
The Greek meaning for exceeding abundantly is “superabundant,” and “beyond measure.” God wants us to enjoy abundant life, live above sin, and walk in victory, peace, joy, and love.
In Galatians 5:25, Paul reminds us “If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.”
The story of Christmas is the story of the incarnation. Christ, God’s only Son, becomes the Son of Man for the purpose of redeeming a lost, broken world back to God. Christmas is truly all about salvation, sanctification, and eternal life for mankind. The story of Christmas is “God with us,” finally, to save us.