Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father. The time of celebration is almost here. Please focus my mind and heart upon You as the season draws to a close. Help me to think of You often during the next few days, and fill me with a determination to celebrate Your birth with joy and intentionality. Be with me today as I ponder Your Word and commit my day to You. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

Read: Isaiah 7:14

Thoughts: Every year the Social Security Service compiles a list of the most popular names given that year’s crop of babies. The most popular names for 2010 (stats aren’t out for 2011 yet) were Isabella and Jacob. (Looks like there might be a lot of Twilight fans out there.) In fact, for boys, Jacob has held the number one spot since 1999. The name Jacob means “he grabs the heel” or “supplanter”. Isabelle means “devoted to God”. There are some today who make up names for their babies in an effort to be either ethnic or unique. At any rate, the child is given a name and they get to deal with it all of their lives. Johnny Cash even immortalized a name in the song A Boy Named Sue. While it was pretty funny, it did point out the problems a child might have if given an unusual name. The Prophet Isaiah predicted that the Messiah would be called Immanuel 700 years before the birth of Christ. And the meaning of Immanuel is important. Broken into its 2 Hebrew root words, it means what Isaiah said it meant – God with us. The very name of Mary’s baby would indicate who He was and what He would mean to the world.

All of the names of Christ, and there are many in the Bible, point us to another facet of who He is to us and why He came. The name we probably use most frequently, Jesus, means Yahweh saves. The names Christ and Messiah both mean anointed One. In Jesus’ case, His name was not chosen randomly based on originality or cuteness. Isaiah calls Him Immanuel in this verse and a long list of names that we dealt with last week from Isaiah 9. But this name, Immanuel, has incredible significance.

God With Us – this is huge. The Creator God, author of our very lives, has come to live among us as one of us in the flesh. There is no part of our lives that this God cannot understand for He has struggled with the same things. He has felt our pains and has dealt with the sorrows that accompany the human walk. Immanuel can   relate. This opens the door for us to turn to Him with every part of our lives. When we share our sorrow over the gossip of others, or cry about a wayward relative, or feel unfairly treated, Jesus knows exactly what we are talking about because He’s been there and knows how that feels. And when Jesus left this earth in His ascension, He sent His Holy Spirit, who was there with Him in all of that human life and is the One who remains with us today. We are never alone or misunderstood by God. He’s been there, done that. There are people who are reticent to share their sorrows and struggles with God because they think that He just wouldn’t understand. He’s God after all. But that is just not the case. Immanuel has come and He is God With Us!

Prayer: Dear Lord Jesus, precious Immanuel. Please help me to learn that You are indeed here with me. When I feel that You are far away, show me that I am the one who moved away. When I struggle help me remember that You are my empathetic Priest who knows what this life is like and You have my heart in Your hand. Thank You for such amazing attention. In Your name I pray. Amen.