“The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” — which means, ‘God with us.’” (Matthew 1:20–23)
That God is with us in the baby Jesus, the child born in Bethlehem, Immanuel, is a great mystery, indeed, and repays extended reflection. Thomas Torrance explains:
In His first Advent Jesus came… in grace and humiliation. He came in such a way as to enter into our guilty human life and to heal it from within…
“God with us” means that in the birth of Jesus Christ, God has given Himself wholly to us, in a love that is absolutely unstinting and infinitely lavish. It is God’s utmost self-giving that stopped at nothing. God could do no more than come Himself into our humanity, and give Himself entirely to us — and that is exactly what He has done in Jesus. The sheer extent, the boundless range, of His act of love takes our breath away.
“God with us” means that God Almighty insists on sharing His life with us. Far from abandoning us…, God has identified Himself with us. Once and for all He has become one of us, bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh. God has committed Himself to us in such unrestrained love in the birth of Jesus, and in such a way that now He cannot abandon us any more than He can abandon Himself in Jesus Christ.
That is why the birth of Jesus was heralded with such sublime joy among men and angels, for now that God is with us, the whole situation in heaven and earth is entirely altered, and all things are made new. Now that God is actually with us and of us, everything else is assured. Whatever may happen in the future, God’s purposes of love and fellowship and peace with man will all be fulfilled.
“God with us” means God with us sinners in our lost and bankrupt state. Where we have sold ourselves irretrievably into slavery and perdition and are hopelessly broken and damned, God has joined Himself to us. God has refused to let us go. He has insisted on making Himself one of us, and one with us, in order to make our lost cause His very own, and so to restore us to Himself in love.
“God with us” means that God is for us, God is on our side; that He has come among us to shoulder our burden, and to rescue us from disaster and doom and to reinstate us as sons of the heavenly Father. That is the meaning of the whole life of Jesus from His birth to His death. It was God taking upon Himself our poor human life in all its wretchedness and need, God living out our human life from beginning to end, in order to redeem it…, in order to make our lost cause His own.
Thomas F. Torrance, When Christ Comes and Comes Again, pp. 20, 40, 41.
See also Christmas nights at home.