The countdown to Christmas has begun!
The first Sunday of Advent has passed, and it's all leading up to the celebration of the birth of Jesus. Now, I don’t know about you, but sometimes it can get a bit samey. We’ve all heard the Christmas story every year for as long as we can remember.
Well, this year I started reading an Advent devotional wondering if I'd learn anything new (if you're looking for a good one, check out these, specifically for ladies or gentlemen). One of the passages from the Bible referenced on the first day was one I’d read many times before, but as I read the verse out loud I suddenly found, out of nowhere, tears falling down my face:
Behold, the virgin shall become pregnant and give birth to a Son, and they shall call His name Emmanuel—which, when translated, means, God with us. (Matthew 1:23)
I’m sure many of us have had this experience.
A verse we’ve seen hundreds of times before suddenly hits something deep inside, and we feel like we’re reading it for the first time. This verse was a quote from the prophet Isaiah 700 years before Jesus’ birth (Isaiah 7:14). This verse was describing a plan that had been a long time in the making, even way before Isaiah made this prophecy. A plan to rectify and remedy a mess, to bring things back to how they were originally meant to be, before we separated ourselves from God:
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, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden.’ (Genesis 3:8)
The whole history of humanity, laid out for us to read in the Bible, and continuing with you and me today, has been one of pursuit and love.
The love of a Father who desires to come close.
And I know I too feel far off sometimes, but the truth of the matter is that the culmination of this story began that day: a baby born in a shed in a small Middle Eastern town called Bethlehem.
God with us. God come to make his home in us. God come to repair the brokenness. God come to save, redeem and restore.
Emmanuel - God with us.
Somehow this year feels different. Emmanuel. Maybe I’m only really hearing this for the first time. That God, the all powerful, all mighty, nothing is impossible, holy and wonderful God, would choose to come and live on this Earth, and make my heart his dwelling place. No other God would do that. No other God would stoop that low. No other God says YOU are worth that, worth giving anything, just to be with.
Not only did he come that one day as a baby, thousands of years ago, but he didn’t stop there. He comes again and again. Day after day, hour after hour, he comes, he is with us.
For a long time, I’ve struggled with the concept that maybe his presence with me is the only guarantee in this life. I wanted health, relationships, finance, a career. If I'm honest I felt cheated that knowing God didn’t guarantee any of that, and the promise that he would never leave me nor forsake me whatever I faced in life just didn’t seem quite enough.
But maybe something in me is changing, some revelation of what it really means that my God is Emmanuel – God with us. The power and the privilege of his presence, and that that really is more than enough.
Please come and celebrate our Emmanuel this Sunday (11 December) at one of our candlelit carol services. Ealing Town Hall, 4pm and 6pm.