Ironically, I thought 2019 was a hard year. I remember sitting up late on Christmas Eve, holding my daughter’s hair back as she threw up again and again. We had pulled into town that very day to celebrate Christmas with my family, and now, we might make the entire family sick. I spent that night on my mom’s couch so I could be close to my oldest and take care of her throughout the night. As I lay awake on Christmas Eve, I thought back over the events of the past year. It had been a hard one. It had been heavy. I had been hurt. I had hurt others. There were relationships that had been strained. There were some that broke. And I could not fix them. As I lay there, thinking about all of this with a heavy heart, I glanced at my phone. It said 12:00 am. Christmas. It had come. In spite of sickness. In spite of hurt. In spite of broken relationships. It had come. I felt a sense of sadness that this was how it had come. I would have liked things to be better before we celebrated His coming- I wanted things to be perfect. I wanted us all to be healthy. I wanted to not have the ache of regret weighing on my heart. I wanted there to not be anyone missing from this gathering, and from my life. I didn’t feel ready for Christmas. And as I grieved in my heart, one word came to mind. Emmanuel. God with us. He was here. In this moment. He came. Not in spite of sickness. Not in spite of sin. Not in spite of hurt. Not in spite of brokenness. But because of it.
Jesus came to light up this world because it is dark. He came with healing because our bodies break. He came because we’ve been hurt and hurt others. He came precisely because we are not ready for Him, and cannot be. Emmanuel.
And then, 2020 happened. I can’t think of a year in my lifetime where the desperate need for “God with us” is so evident. This year has felt like one long battle. It has felt dark. It has felt oppressive. It has felt like we are fighting something so much bigger than us. It has at times felt hopeless. Emmanuel. God is with us. The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them the light has shone.
We have wrestled with fear. Fear not, for I am with you, be not afraid, for I am your God. Emmanuel. We have wrestled with division. For Christ Himself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when in His own body on the cross, He broke down the wall of hostility that separated us. Emmanuel. We have wrestled with feeling abandoned. I will never leave you nor forsake you. Emmanuel. We have wrestled with feeling unloved. You are precious to me, you are honored, and I love you. Emmanuel. We have wrestled to discern what is true. I am the way, the truth and the life. Emmanuel. We have wrestled with hopelessness. We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf. Emmanuel.
And once again, as Christmas approaches, I don’t feel ready. But you know what? The world was not ready for the first Christmas either, because how can you be ready to receive God? How can creation be ready to receive its creator? How can sinners be ready to receive their Savior? All we had to offer Him was a giant, cavernous need. Maybe our need was our readiness. Maybe it still is. Maybe all we have to offer Him is the fact that we cannot live without Him. That we are desperate for His presence. Because into that darkness, into that gaping void, that desperation, God still speaks one word. Again. Emmanuel. I.AM.HERE.
*If you want to know why He came, click here: The Gospel