God With Us (2 Nephi 17)
Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us. (Matthew 1:22-23)
This passage is often read as part of a Christmas sermon celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ. The prophet referred to in the passage is Isaiah, and the quote comes from Isaiah 7:14, which is reproduced in 2 Nephi 17:14.
The recognition that the birth of Christ created a condition of “God with us” is an important concept in understanding why Jesus took on flesh and lived as a man among us.
In today’s world, we have many ways of connecting with people from a distance. We can call their home on a landline; we can call their person via cell phone; we can send a text message; we can write an email; we can even still send a letter or card via the postal service.
Despite all these ways of connecting, if the person you are trying to reach doesn’t want to connect with you, then it’s nearly impossible to do so. Messages (text, email, letter, card) can go unanswered. Once upon a time, you could call anyone’s home and talk to the person when he answered the phone. But today, with caller ID, the person knows it is you calling and can choose to not answer if he doesn't want to speak with you.
So, what option is left if you want to connect with someone who has erected this type of barrier? You have to physically go where they are. Now, we’re not encouraging anyone to be a stalker, staking out someone’s home, but rather to understand that sometimes your physical presence is the only way to overcome a barrier.
From the time sin entered the world, a barrier was created between man and God. Although some long-distance messaging still existed between heaven and earth, God desired a closer relationship with us, one that would last for eternity.
In order to overcome this barrier, Jesus Christ (“God the Son”) was sent to be physically present among people. Of course, it wasn’t just for the 33 years that Christ was on earth that people experienced “God with us.” When He departed, He sent the Holy Ghost to represent Him and abide within us, creating an ongoing opportunity to have “God with us.”
And finally, by dying on the cross and resurrecting, Jesus paved the way for us to be with God for eternity. No path existed that could bring us to the kingdom of heaven until that event occurred.
So, when we hear the name Emmanuel, whether at Christmas or any other time, let’s remember that the event being recognized was the beginning of a period of time that would result in the barrier of sin being torn down and replaced with the opportunity to live our lives with “God with us” and to spend eternity where He is (“us with God”).
This article has undergone ministry review and approval.