I wander through the house, wondering what I’m supposed to be doing. It feels like slow motion. I lose focus quickly, moving on without completing the current task. My planner has “to do’s” but I don’t always get them done. And it doesn’t seem to matter.
Life has changed forever with the death of one so dear. It’s not the first time I experienced this lostness, this drifting, this weeping, and it will not be the last. But in this moment of time, with my heart and mind fragmented, God speaks to the woundedness of my soul.
I don’t consider prerusing stores for gifts. I look to Amazon for help or the gift box upstairs that holds previous purchases with friends and family in mind. I hope my people will not be disappointed. I hope they will understand and say “It’s OK.”
Still, I call to mind that this season in December is for celebrating the Living God coming to a broken world to heal and make whole. I lean into His declaration that He Is With Me Always. Sweet relief. Indescribable comfort. I will turn my thoughts to this truth again and again in the days ahead.
On the Sunday before Christmas Day, I retrieve and repeat another year’s post that shouts the unchanging message: Jesus is Emmanuel.
I’ve written it in notes and Christmas cards this December, these words I am holding close this season.
Emmanuel – God with us.
The hurry and flurry of the holidays keeps us hopping. Our homes are decorated with reds and greens, the twinkling lights gracing shrubbery, windows and trees in our living rooms. Packages appear in brightly wrapped paper and gift bags. We wear our Christmas sweaters with pride.
Friends and family fill the spaces. We drink eggnog and eat too many Christmas cookies. Laughter rings through the house, and we are thankful for these people who gather at the table.
Yet, there are grieving hearts, longing souls, functions that are a little dysfunctional because we all have our own problems to deal with. Sometimes we put on a happy face so no one sees the pain, so we don’t rain on the parade as it marches down the street.
We get irritated with crazy drivers and clogged traffic, long shopping lines and the out-of-stock item we wanted under the tree. Checking accounts are running a little low, and there’s still a week of bills to pay. Our patience is in short supply when demands are made on us that feel more like obligations than celebration. We wonder if our Christmas spirit has gone into hiding.
December is much like every other month on the calendar, fraught with challenges and opportunities. We have a choice on where we will focus.
Emmanuel – In Hebrew: With us is God.
It was the prophecy of Messiah from the pen of Isaiah, re-written in Matthew as a reminder of its fulfilling.
These words, spoken to us by God over and over through our history, as if we are hard of hearing.
Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you. — Genesis 28:15
And He said, “My presence shall go with you, and I will give you rest.” — Exodus 33:14
The LORD of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our stronghold. Selah. — Psalm 46:7
Once more with a pronouncement from the angel Gabriel, God came to us wrapped in humanity, He whose name is Emmanuel.
Very God grew and experienced life as I do, with all of its ups and downs, with vigor and weariness, with smiles and tears, with joyful celebrations and heartbreak of separation. He came as the “with us God” and demonstrated to us that we are not alone.
As He left this earth in a burst of clouded glory, He gave one final reminder to those who believed:
“. . . And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” — Matthew 28:20
Then sending the promised Holy Spirit, He remains with us in a way we could not have imagined.
Emmanuel. God is with us.
Do not fret or be afraid. Walk in the power of His presence. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad.