Emmanuel or God With Us

Emmanuel or God With Us

J. Hay Ritchie

Every year at Christmas time, the thoughts of men around the world are focussed on one of life’s most commonplace events — the birth of a child.

Nevertheless, perhaps only a few appreciate the real significance of Christmas day, for its importance centres, not in the event itself, nor in its exact date, but solely in the Child Himself!

And although man’s attitude towards the Christ-child might be careless and indifferent, it is still remarkable that the incarnation of our Lord and Saviour should be the occasion of the world’s most widely celebrated feast day.

Undoubtedly Christmas is a most unique day — a day never to be repeated. But unique it is, most of all, because on that day many could say in truth, “Emmanuel — God with us!!” (Matt. 1:23).

The Manner of His Birth

No other child was ever born as He was; the manner of His birth and the nature of His person were unique.

The Scriptures commence with a detailed account of the Godhead’s activity in creation. “In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth” (Gen. 1:1).

Then follows the description of the creation of the elements, the heavenly bodies, the seas and the earth, vegetation and animal life. Finally, God created man in His own image. What a wonderful series of acts demonstrating the creative power of the eternal God!

However, when we analyze the Scriptures dealing with the Lord’s advent into this world, there is no addition whatsoever of the creation of another being, nor of the addition of another link in the human chain. We are confronted with this stupendous yet fundamental fact — a fact both beautiful and perfect: the manifestation in human form of that which already had existed eternally!

No other event in the history of mankind has been accompanied by more evidences of its supreme importance and uniqueness as has the incarnation of the Lord Jesus Christ.

In the Scripture record of His coming, not an essential detail is omitted; each detail zealously safeguards the doctrine of His deity —for He is God while at the same time perfect Man. “The Word was God … and the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us, (and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father) full of grace and truth—(John 1:1, 14). Perfectly human, yet in complete contrast with the sons of men, He was entirely without sin, for He was fully divine!

His birth was also unique inasmuch as He was born of a virgin. This is one of the Bible’s closely guarded truths, one which has been attacked time and again by the enemy.

God led His prophets to foretell it, however; some 700 years before the actual event, it was given as a special sign to the Jewish nation. “Therefore the Lord Himself shall give you a sign: Behold a virgin shall conceive and bear a Son and shall call His name, Immanuel” (Isa. 7:14. Cf. Matt. 1:23).

This was a unique circumstance and, humanly speaking, an impossible one. Yet in the opening chapters of Luke’s Gospel, we find that the Holy Spirit chooses a physician to fulfil the task of explaining in a perfectly natural way, the delicate details of our Saviour’s birth. He tells us that the angel who was sent to Mary explained what was about to happen, and while the virgin Mary declared her consternation (Luke 1:34), “the angel answered and said unto her, ‘The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee; therefore also that Holy Thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God’” (Luke 1:35). “For with God nothing shall be impossible” (Luke 1:37).

The course of events as recorded by Luke shows clearly how assiduously God guards the details concerning the advent of His only begotten Son into the world. Furthermore, the historical validity of Luke’s writings has been strikingly demonstrated in recent years, so that no reflection can ever be cast upon the narrator and his record, nor upon the circumstances and instrument through whom the Christ-child came, nor upon the Child Himself Who was brought forth under such unique conditions. God wrought a miracle, aptly summed up by Paul, “But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the law” (Gal. 4:4).

Thus it came to pass that while Mary and Joseph were in the town of Bethlehem, she gave birth to her firstborn child, and wrapped Him in swaddling clothes and laid Him in the manger. In further accordance with all that the Scriptures had foretold, His name was called Jesus.

This unique event was heralded by “a multitude of the heavenly host” who appeared to shepherds in the fields while they watched their flocks. Suddenly they were surrounded by the shining glory of the Lord, and an angel said unto them, “Fear not: for behold I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:9-11). “And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men” (Luke 2:19-20).

Not only so, but a specially bright star appeared in the eastern sky; and wise men, attracted by its brilliance and enquiring into its significance, followed its course and came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen His star in the east, and are come to worship Him” (Matt. 2:2).

Directed towards Bethlehem, the star went before them till it came and stood over where the young child was. And when they saw Him with Mary His mother, they fell down and worshipped Him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto Him gifts — gold, acknowledging His deity; frankincense, indicating the fragrance of His perfect life; and myrrh, portraying His bitter sufferings in the bearing of man’s sin (Matt. 2:1-11).

All Jerusalem was in consternation at the news of His birth. King Herod — undoubtedly energized by Satan — tried to exterminate the seed royal. Satan had attempted to do this ever since the days in Eden’s garden, when God promised a Saviour for fallen man. Now the promised Saviour had come, and so cruel and wicked was the hatred burning in Herod’s heart, that he commanded that all children in Bethlehem under two years of age should be slain. And still another remarkable prophecy was then fulfilled, “A voice was heard in Ramah, lamentation, and bitter weeping, Rachel weeping for her children refused to be comforted for her children, because they were not” (Jer. 31:15. Matt 2:18).

Other more intricate details are associated with this wonderful event; for example, the inexplicable presence of numerical and literary phenomena in the order of the names mentioned in the genealogy of the Lord as given in Matthew, chapter one. Also, throughout the discourses of the angel with Mary, a miraculous design of perfection as symbolized by the number seven and its multiples leaves puny man aghast and proves beyond doubt the wonders of the handiwork of God.

Sonship and the Incarnation

Our Lord did not become the only begotten Son as a result of His birth; otherwise God’s gift would be of less value — from both a divine and a human standpoint. “Unto us a child is born, and unto us a Son is given” (Isa. 9:6). Thus it is clear that the gift was a Son. And it is equally clear that the manifestation of the Son was in the Child born. But nowhere does God say that a Son was born!

God’s matchless love declared His gift to be the eternal Son of His bosom. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son” (John 3:16). Oh! the wonder of it!

The Lord Himself asserts, “I came down from heaven” (John 6:38). The Father says, “Thou art My Son, this day have I begotten Thee” (Heb. 1:5).

It was surely the will of the Father that the Son be given to earth, to man. And it was the delight of the Son ever to make effective that holy will (Ps.40:7). God gave; the Son came. What other gift equals this? Like the wise men, we do well to fall at His feet in humble worship, presenting our best gifts to Him alone!

The Purpose of His Incarnation

The incarnation was a necessity for the fulfilment of God’s purposes for our salvation and future glory. He wants all men to be saved, as does Christ Who delights in His Father’s will. While the Lord Jesus did not delight in the cross nor in death, He did nevertheless delight in accomplishing His Father’s will, that sinners might be without excuse in the light of the sacrifice of the Son.

Every attribute of God is made known in His Son, for He is the image of God. “No man hath seen God at any time: the only begotten Son which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him” (John 1:18). Thus, God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself, and He now commendeth His love toward us.

God spared not His Son. God’s love for us cannot therefore be measured in human terms. The proof and measure of His love is embodied in His Son, the man Christ Jesus, Him Who was sent, Him Who was given. He lived, He died, He rose, and He ascended. Soon He will return to complete His work of love in the redemption of all creation, and we shall reign with Him forevermore.

“Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever” (Rev. 5:13).