One of Jesus’s many names is Immanuel. It’s a beautiful one, meaning “God with us”. It’s one I enjoy reflecting on this time of year, as we celebrate the birth of Jesus.
Earlier this year, I gave birth to my second (my youngest, my last) baby girl. Therefore, this past Christmas, the incarnation was especially awe-inspiring and beautiful to me.
It was also the first Christmas that my older baby (now 2 ½) began to understand it. That Jesus—the same Jesus she prays to every night before bed—was a baby once, too. That He was born. It’s blowing her little mind, and it’s blowing mine all over again.
Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall call his name Immanuel (which means, God with us).
The experience of giving birth has given me new eyes with which to behold this miracle. I not only have new appreciation for what Mary went through (and without an epidural—yowch), but I also have an acute awareness of…if I may speak plainly here…the grossness of the whole event.
Childbirth is many things (amazing, beautiful, magical), but it is also gross. And mine took place in a hospital, not in a barn. My baby was immediately cleaned and swaddled and placed in a sterile basinet. Jesus was placed in a feeding trough, pillowed by hay. Sweet, magical, and oh so unsanitary.
I don’t mean to be irreverent, and if you’re offended, I hope you’re still tracking with me. This scene, in all its stark realness, with the dirt and the animal smells—it is sharper and more authentically real in my mind now than it ever was before I had my own babies. And it’s gut-punching in its audacity. It’s knee-buckling in its shamelessness. Because this was God who was born. God. Our Creator, holy and so wholly “other than”—he stooped down and entered our world through the same cramped, slippery doorway as the rest of us. How mind-bendingly horrifying. How shocking and inappropriate to discuss at Christmas dinner. How dramatically, terribly, jaw-droppingly wonderful that our Savior came to us at ALL, let alone came to us like THIS.
His name is Immanuel. “God with Us.” God came to us. He CAME to us, but really, he became one of us.
As I sit with my two-year-old and try to talk to her about this, I see the puzzlement in her face and it forces me to slow down. To consider each word. And with that slowing down comes a slow dawning in my own mind—it really is fantastical. Wondrous. Beyond comprehension.
And if I’m honest, I’ll admit that I treat the miracle of the incarnation with flippant familiarity most of the time. But in those moments of squatting eye-to-eye with my daughter, I’m humbled. I’m lost in the majesty of it all. That God came to us. Became one of us. Flesh and blood. And oh, the blood that I imagine was part of that scene in the manger. God got bloody (and He would get bloody again).
[Christ Jesus] who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.
- Philippians 2:6–7
Our holy, perfect, infinite God took off his robe, stepped down from His throne, and humbled himself in the most unspeakable way when He was born Immanuel. Let this thought settle over you. Let it stick in your throat. It’s scandalous, unimaginable, but it happened, and it was for love that He did it. Oh, the lengths to which our God went to save us. It’s barely fathomable.
Talking to a two-year-old about heavenly, eternal things has a way of breaking them down to their barest parts, and I love that part about being a mom. My prayer for and with my little girl is my prayer for all of us:
Dear Jesus, thank you for being born as a baby, for coming to us and dying so that you could forgive the wrong choices that get between us and You. Thank you for forgiving us so that we can be Your friend and talk to you whenever we want. Thank You for loving us so much. Amen.