A musician friend of mine has a cousin named Emmanuel. My friend wrote a song alluding to Emmanuel’s fairytale-like wedding. The ceremony was outdoors in a picturesque setting with fine weather and wooded surroundings.

As the time to commence neared, however, many grew nervous because no one had seen the groom all day. Soon, however, a distant figure came through the field. It was the groom on a white horse, dressed in full silver armor with a purple plume waving atop his head. Emmanuel desired to make a dramatic appearance because he wanted all to know he loved his bride—and was coming for her.

The knighted groom’s name couldn’t have been more perfect. The Old Testament narrative tells us that all history had waited for another Immanuel to come, to come for us. Matthew (echoing the prophet Isaiah) makes sure we hear the name of this One who is coming for us: Immanuel. There’s a whole world of hope in that name. Immanuel, we are told, means “God is with us” (Matthew 1:23).

In Immanuel (Jesus), God has come near. God walked our streets. God breathed our air. God felt our pain. God laughed. God cried. God—in Jesus—was among us, next to us, right beside us.

Our loss and shame and sorrow have built walls around our heart. Few see who we truly are. Few know what makes us sing or dance. Few know what makes us want to run away, or what fills us with dread. We may fear that if another ever saw all that was in us, they would turn away in disgust. Distance, disconnection, loneliness—unfortunately, these are common descriptors of our relational experience.

How powerful, then, to know that the purposes of God are centered on this desire—for God to be near us. God with us.

NLT 365-day reading plan passage for today: 1 John 1:1-10