Immanuel is actually a term of judgment in its usages in scripture—including this one. Prince of Peace, although speaking of peace is a warrior’s term. When combined the idea is “God is with us to bring peace” and that means judgment. With all the warm and fuzzy thoughts of Christmas and goodness and mercy of God on display in that God came to be human in the person of Jesus, we must not forget that although God came to redeem, He also came to set judgment in motion. As was the case with Herod, Pilate, the Sanhedrin, Caiaphas, Judas, and all the people who rejected Jesus as the true King, their judgment was sealed by their pronouncements concerning Jesus as He was God with us and they rejected Him as God.
The thing is, God never stopped being Immanuel. He is still with us. In John’s gospel, Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would come after Him: “Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.” (John 16:7-11)
Jesus said that He would send the Holy Spirit who would convict the world of sin, righteousness and judgment. God is still with us in the person of the Holy Spirit and testifies to us that Jesus really is God who came to redeem us. The problem is, if we reject the offer—if we reject the deliverance He offers—we stand condemned already. Immanuel and Prince of Peace are only comforting terms for those who acknowledge who Jesus is and what He has already done for us. He is Immanuel—God with us. He is the Prince of Peace—the defeater of evil who brings judgment against the ruler of this world and all those who do his work. When the Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace became Immanuel—evil didn’t have a chance; nor did or do those who land on the side of evil.
This thought should rattle the church first because as Peter wrote “For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?” (I Pet. 4:17). Which, when coupled with another passage in Isaiah should make all of us take inventory and repent: “What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices? says the Lord; I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of well-fed beasts; I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of goats. “When you come to appear before me, who has required of you this trampling of my courts? Bring no more vain offerings; incense is an abomination to me. New moon and Sabbath and the calling of convocations—I cannot endure iniquity and solemn assembly. Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hates; they have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them. When you spread out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood. Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause. “Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool. If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land; but if you refuse and rebel, you shall be eaten by the sword; for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
It’s easy to get all warm and fuzzy about Immanuel and long for the Prince of Peace to be in our midst. But I wonder if Jesus showed up in our church would we hear His words of approval for being a loving, justice-seeking church that corrects oppression, brings justice to the fatherless and pleads the widow’s cause? Or, would we hear words of judgment for wearying Him and being a burden to Him for praying/talking a lot but doing nothing. If the latter is the case the offer still stands that “though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.” That is my prayer as I evaluate my shortcomings and look out my window at the snow falling. That’s what I want. I want to be have my sins covered like the fresh blanket of snow is covering the ground outside right now.