The days before were particularly cumbersome and discouraging, pressure filled and crowded. It was easy to become myopic, self-focused and SO tempting to giving into being overwhelmed. Circumstances dominated, recent concerns trumped joy and the slithering down into the place of “why try?” was imminent. I hate that place.
So, early that morning, when I walked into our kitchen and checked the emails, while the water was boiling for tea, I was not expecting anything more than my status quo of struggle.
The crisis of a compromised pregnancy and delivery was still happening thousands of miles away for our dear friends recently returned to their home country. I read through the latest email report and request for prayer. When I got to the bottom of the email the husband’s writing jumped out at me. His simple closure – “Emmanuel” caught my free fall into despair.
In the midst of their crisis he was clinging confidently to the reality of Emmanuel. In the midst of an awful waiting to see if their unborn son would make it, he was clinging to the reality of Emmanuel. He had no guarantee of a positive outcome, but he did have a guarantee of the presence of Christ being with him – just like the prophet Isaiah wrote about in chapter 43:1-3 of his book.
That word “Emmanuel” and all it represents recalibrated my thinking. Suddenly I had a different perspective. Of course – God is with me! Of course, He is. Being reminded of this simple, but profound truth recently forgotten enlivened me. The heaviness was removed and the burdens became lighter. My perspective shifted. Yes, there were still concerns and burdens. Yes, the circumstances had not changed, but my mental viewpoint had. I was rescued.
When I focus on the reality that God is with me, and He is all the time, it makes a difference. God the Father, God the Spirit and God the Son – the Trinitarian Presence –is always present, never leaves and is permanently guaranteed for all who believe and are indwelt by the Holy Spirit.
Emmanuel – “God with us” -was a name given to Christ by Matthew (1:23). “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son and they will call him Immanuel – which means God with us.” It comes from the familiar advent prophecy in Isaiah 7:14 “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel.”
The season of Advent, which in the Church calendar began last Sunday, is a season of expectation, anticipation, preparation and longing for the arrival of Emmanuel. “Advent” comes from the Latin word meaning coming or arrival.
Not only is Emmanuel, “God with us” a reality, but Emmanuel is present in and through us so that we become the visible Presence of Christ to others. Eugene Peterson in his book Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places speaks to the reality of Christ living through us to the world who needs to know Him. We are the vehicles to represent Him in the midst of a very needy world. He plays through us to show Himself.
Jesus Himself promised His indwelling Spirit (John 14:16-17; 16:7). He promised His disciples just before He ascended into heaven in Matthew28:20 that He would be with them always. The reality of this is made possible now through the indwelling of His Holy Spirit and it is that Spirit that Jesus said would (John 20:21-22) enliven believers to be sent to reflect His Presence to a watching, waiting needy world.
Never was this any clearer, the reality of Christ being present through Christians either corporately or individually, than it was last week following the tragic response in Ferguson to the announcement of the grand jury decision. In the Facebook post gone viral by NFL Player Benjamin Watson and subsequent interview on national television, Watson articulated in an honest and vulnerable manner the reality of man’s need with the only solution being found in Jesus Christ. Quote: “ this is not a skin problem but a sin problem… God has provided a solution for sin through his son Jesus…” .Watson was the visible presence of Christ. As I watched his televised interview the reality of Emmanuel was there.
What difference does the coming of Emmanuel make in your life right now?