You hear it alot this time of year–Emmanuel, God with us. I was working on something and listening to my Christmas playlist and heard it again.
God. With. Us.
I have many friends going through very hard times right now: the death of parents, divorce, cancer, unemployment, financial uncertainty. Lots of people with stuff going on that makes the “Merry Christmas” season less than merry. A sweet friend was talking about her grief and the holidays, how the grief comes over her in waves, sometimes out of the blue. I’ve had those moments, though for different reasons, and I expect most people have. How on earth do I deal with those waves of sadness or uncertainty? It’s even better than God just being with us corporately–get this:
God. With. Me.
To dissect this, it doesn’t say God with me so all the bad things in the world will stop, and my life will be like a trip to Disney World. Nope. Nowhere does it say that. Not even close. He never says “I will bar the gate of the valley of the shadow of death and not let you experience that. Nothing about “all the annoying people in your life will vanish.” Not a hint of an easy life, at least in the eyes of the world. None. Actually, it’s the opposite. His people were thrown to the lions, tossed in blazing furnaces, and told of they would be in the presence of enemies, the valley of the shadow. Jesus told his disciples plainly, “In this world YOU WILL HAVE TROUBLE.” and “WHEN people persecute you for my sake” (Matthew 5:11) and “You WILL be hated by all because of my name.” (Matthew 10:22) This is not a life for the faint of heart.
But what is also mentioned? I will be with you. I will prepare a table for you in the presence of those enemies. He walked with the men in the furnace. He’s in the valley of the shadow-with us. Jesus said, “Take heart! I have overcome the world!” The Holy Spirit is in us as believers–always. Always. And the promise that nothing can separate us from the love of God.
So for those of us who mourn for loved ones, who walk the valley, who are in the furnace, who seem to live in the presence of the enemy: we are not alone. You are not alone. In the pain, grief, sickness, loneliness, isolation or whatever you face this week, you are not alone. That’s what this Christmas is all about. God–with us.