It was not in a stable that the Creator became Immanuel. It was in a Garden. Do you remember what the Scripture said? “Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day…” Genesis 3:8). The Creator, this being of inconceivable wisdom and power, who brought into existence the visible universe and, along with it, realities that are not visible (at least to creatures like us) was with humans: with them in ways they could readily perceive and in ways that caused them to flourish. He was Immanuel. The gospel rests on, and returns to, this happy truth.
The Creator made the earth to be a place that would beautifully and remarkably sustain biological life. We today talk of sustainable resources. The earth was created a sustainable resource. We talk about renewable energy. The humans had it. Everything was perfect. The Creator placed them in an ecosystem (Eden) that was the ideal environment for the kind of biological life he had given them.
The Creator had a plan. Unlike the angels and like the animals, he gave the humans a biological makeup so that they could reproduce and fill the earth. Unlike the animals and like the angels, he gave them a spiritual makeup, so that they could live forever in relationship to him. And unlike any other creature that we know of, he made them in his image. They were designed so that they and their descendants would be like the Creator himself. They were both animal and spiritual, perfectly suited to represent earth to heaven and heaven to earth.
The Creator then conferred on them the awesome responsibility of ruling the earth as his regents. “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over … all the earth…’” (Genesis 1:26-27). His plan was to set up images of himself (that is, humans) all over the planet – and who knows, perhaps someday all over the galaxy – to represent him. They were to wisely care for the planet and its creatures as his representatives. Think of the earth and the universe as a kingdom, the Creator as the king, and the humans as the king’s wise and loving regents.
It was for that sacred calling that the man and woman were being prepared. We don’t know how long their preparation in the garden was intended to last. For all we know it may have been hundreds of years: learning how to govern the earth and its creatures wisely is no small thing. Think about what that might entail: A mastery of biology, physics, engineering, zoology, and much more!