Immanuel in the Bible is a Hebrew name which means “God with us.” It appears twice in the Old Testament (Isaiah 7:14, 8:8) and once in the New Testament (Matthew 1:23). The passion of Christ and his exaltation to the right hand of God the Father was a Cosmic Event. Physically the world felt an earthquake, the sky was darkened, the curtain in the temple was torn in two. Jesus became not only a life-giving spirit but a new type of human being which all believers will become when the New Earth and new Heavens come to pass. This is assurance. Upon Christ ascending into the heavens the person of the Holy Spirit entered humanity responding to faith by indwelling and sealing our human spirit. Since that time, the Holy Spirit has been at work.
One of the first manifestations of this was the body of Christ as manifest in the Church and in the nations of the world.
Axum (or Aksum) was the first great kingdom in Ethiopia in East Africa as well as a powerful ancient kingdom in Africa. In modern Ethiopia. Axum’s capital, Aksum, is now the modern town of Aksum, Ethiopia.
King Ezana was the first Christian King of Ethiopia also referred to as the Axumite Kingdom. He made Christianity the state religion of Axum, making Axum the first Christian state in the history of the world.
Axum became richer due to their port on the Red Sea, Adulis. The nation received imports and goods from countries all over the known world including Egypt to China to India to Rome. Axum also became more powerful and between 300 and 600 AD and Axum was seen as the most powerful kingdom in Eastern Africa. They had experienced a respect for Judaism since the time the Queen of Sheba returned from visiting Solomon, from whom Axumite kings claim descendent. Many Jews found their way to Ethiopia after the great Diaspora of 70AD.
Muslims ultimately started conquering the countries and kingdoms in Africa. From about 600 AD to around 900 AD, there was conflict between the Axumites (Christians) and the Muslims. The Muslims triumphed yet Christianity thrived underground. In the 13th century, 100 years after many of the massive European cathedrals were built, eleven churches in Lalibela, Axum were being carved from solid rock.
Today, about 60% – 75% of Ethiopians are Christians (mostly in the South) and about 25% – 40% of Ethiopians are Muslims (mostly in the North).
Those ancient Christian churches remain and are used to this day and the faithful travel many miles and as in the case of the Abuna Yemata Guh . Perched 650 feet above a steep cliff in Northern Ethiopia, visitors face a 45-minute climb up the cliff’s vertical face in order to access the precariously positioned church. Dating back to the 5th century, history has it that its founder Father Yemata built the chapel to be closer to heavenly spirits or to protect the church from enemies.
As we contemplate returning to church after the current pandemic keep in mind how people around the world go to great lengths and danger to worship our Lord.