Saturday, July 20, 2013

Inside the Parenthesis

She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”
All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).
Matthew 1:21-23, NIV

This is a familiar scripture. We hear it often as part of the birth of Jesus narrative at Christmas. Before I knew Jesus, I used to think this was a perfect example of the so-called contradictory nature of the Bible. After all, Isaiah said they will call him Immanuel and then Joseph is instructed to name him Jesus. And yet this didn't seem to bother Matthew as he’s pointing out how this fulfills Isaiah's prophecy. Of course I understand now that Immanuel was not meant to be the child's name, but the man's character/position/reputation in the community. Just as you know what I mean when I describe a person as an aristocrat or perhaps a real humanitarian, so Jesus was and is Immanuel - the one and only. And of course, we know that Immanuel means "God with us" because the parenthetical information tells us so.

Did you ever really ponder the implications of the parenthetical information Matthew spells out with the definition of this particular Jewish word, Immanuel? He must have felt it important enough to use precious space on the scroll to define it, to make sure its meaning is clear for all time. If you are like me, you have a tendency to read right past the parenthetical material in books and articles without even really taking note of it. In The Message version, the parenthetical phrase has one extra word that the Spirit used to catch my attention. The Message says that Immanuel is Hebrew for "God is with us." (Italics mine)

God IS with us! Wow! How incredible is that? God is with us. No matter where we are—and we are
in some unholy places sometimes, God is with us—not to condemn us, but to save us.  (John 3:17) God is with us to guide us, protect and provide for us, to love us, forgive us and pull us from our sinfulness into his holy presence because he loves us. As I struggle with my daily life, as my faith blossoms or is just holding on by a thread, as I reach out in his mercy or shrink from my witness, God IS with me, loving me, giving me strength, and lavishing me with his grace. He's not off somewhere in the cosmos uninterested and uninvolved in my life. He chooses to be with me in this moment and forever and he will continue to work in me, his precious creation, until he is done crafting me, cultivating his holiness within me because he wants his very best for me. God is with us!

What an amazing and miraculous truth this is! And to think it comes out of four small words found inside parenthesis.


Nancy Capo said...


Maureen Profeta said...

Thanks Nancy. I'll miss you this week. Blessings where you are.