Immanuel: The God who Dwells with Us

by | Dec 22, 2018 | From Katie's Desk

Holidays like Christmas are about time spent together with loved ones. That togetherness—simply being present with those we treasure—seems to make everything seem a little brighter in the world. Amid joy, laughter, and silly traditions, there is an unspoken truth of belonging to be treasured.

However, there is a greater treasure to savor each day, especially on Christmas.  

Isaiah 7:14 prophesies that “the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. “Immanuel is a Hebrew name that means ‘God with us’ and in John’s gospel account, we see the fulfillment of the promise: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and he have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” 

We could rightly stop and wonder awestruck at the fact that the God who made the universe and every living thing humbled himself to the form of a baby so that we might know him, but stopping there would deprive us of an richer understanding of his love for us. 

What does it really mean that God is with us? To answer that, it helps to explore the full connotation of the word “dwell” that John uses. In the original Greek text, the word skenoo literally means to pitch a tent and in its noun form, skene, is associated with the New Testament references to the Tabernacle. A more literal English rendering perhaps reads “the Word became flesh and tabernacled among us.”  Then again, tabernacle is one of those funny words that has obscure meaning to many modern believers; it might even remind you of a big room at some family church camp that you attended in your youth. However, childhood memories aside, the theological ramifications are staggering. The Tabernacle of the Old Testament was an amazing place where God met with his people under the terms of the Old Covenant. Because it was a tent, it enabled him have a physical presence in the midst of his people as they wandered in the wilderness. Day and night he was with them, but his glory was hidden by cloud and fire, restricting intimate access to his presence because sinful people could not stand before a holy God. Later, the temple was built and his people enjoyed his promise, presence, and provision in a more lasting way, but wandering hearts made even the temple a temporary place of limited communion. However, God, in his unfailing love for his people, relentlessly pursued our redemption and reconciliation—all the way to John 1.  

In the birth of Immanuel on a cold Bethlehem night, God was with his people in a way unlike any other time in history.  In an extraordinary way, he called us his own. Presence to presence, with no barriers, the glory of the fullness of God was revealed to us. Because we are a sinful people who could never meet him on equal terms, he became like us to dwell with us where we are and accomplish what we cannot achieve on our own—reconciliation to himself. 

We may go to a small bit of trouble to be with our loved ones at Christmas, but it is because God went to great trouble to be with us that there is Christmas at all. Through his amazing love, He is our God and we are his people. He is present with us, and we belong to him. As you celebrate with those you love this year, take time to rejoice in Jesus. He is Immanuel: the God who dwells with us.

Katie Schmidt is the Director of Communications at SSI. She is fascinated by how biblical presuppositions inform history, philosophy, and critical advocacy and enjoys engaging with her community and church, learning news things, and dabbling in creative pursuits.


Disclaimer: The views presented in this blog are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the position of the Student Statesmanship Institute. SSI is a non-profit educational organization and provides this blog as a platform for those who have been involved in our program to engage and share thoughts related to current events, issues of the day, and personal experiences, but does not necessarily endorse the content therein.