Most days I go through life not spending much time in thought about people’s names or titles. They are, well, what they are. But it’s late on a Thursday afternoon and I am neck deep in curriculum writing. The warm sun is shining through my office window, and the topic that lay before me is the different names and titles of Jesus in the book of Matthew. As I contemplate the importance of each, exploring the author’s choices, I can’t help but wonder about the impact of His many names on the people He touched. A quick look through the Old Testament scriptures will reveal that God, like his son, had many names and appeared to his people in many different forms each conveying a different part or characteristic of the divine and holy God. But one theophany of God stands separate and far apart from the rest, Emmanuel.

Think about this for a minute. When God or His authority appears, also known as a theophany, it is miraculous and powerful event: the burning bush, pillar of fire/smoke, plagues, to Gideon at the threshing floor, smoke in the temple, chariot of fire, hand writing on the wall, thunder on the mountain, to name a few. On the rare occasion it is subtle: a still small voice to Samuel, a stroll through the Garden of Eden, a dove flying down from heaven. Even when God asked to live among His people in the Tabernacle, it was with great fear that one human would go to Him once a year. God’s names and titles project power, authority, fear, all the while showing deep love and care for His people; a powerful protector and provider, caring for those who follow his laws.

It is the name Emmanuel that potentially changes the game for God people. It’s the name that presents God, not as a judge that has come to condemn the world, but as “one of us” who has come in grace pursuing a closer more intimate relationship that’s not based on the continual sacrifice of animals. It is the name of pure love, when a father says “I am…with you.” It is the single most empowering name that God could ever tell His people to call Him.

These days we don’t use the name Emmanuel much. We stick with the more common God, Jesus, or Christ. I often wonder, if a title and name have a lot of meaning and power, might using the name Emmanuel more often change our sense of closeness with our creator and savior?

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