“Behold, the virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will
call Him Immanuel, which means, “God with us” (Matthew 1:23 BSB)
December is the season when people of faith celebrate Jesus who came as Immanuel, God with us. We may sing these words majestically in choirs from New York to New Zealand.
We may scribble “Immanuel God with us” on a card that has been smudged with chocolate atop a plate of holiday fudge.
We may proclaim with joy that Jesus is with us as we sip eggnog and enjoy a festive and intimate fire.
But honestly what does baby Jesus offer us other than a warm cozy feeling
that fades in the cruel light of reality.
The birth of the messiah contains an abundance of spiritual and theological truths but what does Immanuel, God with us, really mean when our lives have been shattered into a thousand pieces and our Christmas is anything but merry?
Is a poor woman’s baby in a donkey’s feeding trough a valid consolation prize in the magnitude of loss that we have experienced.
Where was God when sorrow and loss consumed my heart? Where was God when my prayers seemingly bounced off the ceiling if they even existed at all?
My walk with Jesus through the death of my husband has not been uncomplicated and tranquil. There have been moments of great joy. But often, there have been moments of despair and emptiness of spirit where I could not feel anything, let alone the presence of God.
What I have experienced in these eight years has been the deep love of Jesus and his profound grace which has been with me throughout the sorrow.
When we are stripped of everything that we have relied upon, even our Christian disciplines, we can rest in the depth, width, and height of God’s love and grace in its fullness.
His promise to be with us is not dependent upon our ability to pray and read our Bible.
His promise to be with us is not dependent upon our ability to worship or sing his praises.
His promise to be with us is not dependent upon our own strength or tenacity to persevere in faith.
His promise to be with us is not dependent on whether we have great faith to believe that he will carry us through.
When Jesus came as a babe in a manger he came as, Immanuel, God with us. There is nothing we can do to measure up to his promise to be with us. He lavishes his love and grace upon us freely. All we do is rest in him and trust in his grace and love.
Eventually, our prayer life will return, and the pages of scripture will swell within our hearts and will bring new life.
We will sing!
We will worship!
We will rejoice!
And we will feel his glorious presence with us.
But within the throes of grief and sorrow when we cannot do or feel anything, it is at our point of weakness that his grace and love abounds even more.
Yes, Immanuel has come! God is with us in the depths of our sorrow. It is He who carries us into the light of his hope and joy. It is God, through his grace, that will redeem our story and breathe new life into the wilderness of our journey.