In the book of Matthew an angel visits Mary and Joseph and says “you will have a son and you should call him Jesus.” Then Matthew says “this was done to fulfill what the prophet said ‘she shall give birth to a child and he shall be called ‘Immanuel’”
So here’s my question, what’s with the discrepancy in the names?
The angel tells them to call the baby “Jesus” and Matthew says he was supposed to be called “Immanuel.” If I’m Matthew, I’d leave that part out, it’s confusing, even contradictory.
But these names are not accidental. They tell us something important. The name “Jesus” is a derived from the Hebrew for “Joshua” which means, in a round about way, liberator. Jesus is a liberator. The name “Immanuel” means God with us. Immanuel is the presence of God in the world.
The two names together actually work to reveal something about Jesus. If the name “Jesus” tells us something about his function, that of a liberator, perhaps the name “Immanuel” tells us something about how he fulfills that function.
Among other things, Jesus liberates by mediating God’s Presence to us. In the midst of our pains and prisons, Jesus liberates us through Presence. God’s Presence is a subtle, unique, and powerful kind of liberation. It does not promise to change our circumstance, instead it transforms the way we relate to our circumstance. It gives clarity, acceptance, and hope in the midst of the storm.
You might say an experience of God’s presence is a lot like living in the eye of the hurricane. The storm still rages around you, but in the eye everything is perfectly still.
This Christmas, may you experience Immanuel in whatever storms that rage. May you know the deep joy of The Presence.