Immanuel is a beautiful name. I wonder why more people fail to name their sons Immanuel. Perhaps it assumes too much. Yet, in my lifetime I’ve had some friends whose parents were brave enough to name a son Immanuel.
Emmanuel McCall was serving on our Home Mission Board. As an African American, his assignment was to bridge the racial gap in our churches. I invited him to lead a weekend revival in our church. As we did with all revivals, I sent his picture and a brief article to the local newspaper inviting folk to participate with us. I received hostile phone calls and grew concerned for his well-being while in my “care.” Years later, I told him of my fears. He smiled and said, “You wasted your anxiety. People would not have harmed me; they would have gone after you.”
Prior to his election as a congressional representative from Kansas City, Emmanuel Cleaver and I were pastoral colleagues. To gain approval of a building our church planned, I made multiple trips to the state capital to meet with committees. One legislator told me he questioned a statement I made and consulted Representative Cleaver about it. The legislator later told me, “Mr. Cleaver said, ‘If Wade Paris told you that, you can be sure it is true.’“ I was honored.
The Immanuel I hope to know best is Jesus. Remember the angel of the Lord told Joseph Mary would give birth to a child. The angel even named the gender, a son, and gave the child a name---Immanuel, God with us. (Matthew 1:20ff) That is what I need, God be with me. That is what I want, God with me. I pray for it every day.
Brother Lawrence, a seventeenth century French monk, speaking of “God with us” called it practicing the presence of God. He said he had learned to be aware of God’s presence in all that he did---“When I am in the kitchen washing pots and pans, and people are shouting, ‘Lawrence, do this; Lawrence, do that,’ I feel just as much in the presence of God as I do when I am on my knees at the Blessed Sacrament.”
I cannot claim Brother Lawrence’s success; but I am trying to be conscious of God’s presence in everything---great and small.