Sunday, December 25, 2011

Emmanuel -- where are you finding Him?

"the virgin will be with child 
and will give birth to a son,
 and they will call him 
Emmanuel -- which means, 
"God with us."
  ~ matthew 1:23

can't you just hear joseph?  "well, he's with us alright. yes, indeed, he's right here with us."  perhaps he felt that way at one of those 3am feedings or when he wanted a romantic dinner with mary. alone.  and yet there was this baby...right there with them.  always with them -- right in the middle. as parents, there's not a one of us who hasn't felt that way about a child or two (or five) at times. we all are.  all together. all these children with us. always with us.  just last night, as rick and i set out our gifts for the kids at midnight...we stopped at one point and looked at each other with the same thought:  where did all this come from?  how did all this happen? who are these five children sleeping a floor above -- squished into one bedroom on christmas eve night -- restless and wild and waiting for morning?  five kids and christmas and all of it always, always with us.  

but poor joseph.  he didn't know. when you really stop and think about it, don't you kind of feel bad for him?  he was an ordinary guy.  a simple carpenter, and in the blink of an angel he had in his rough hands a betrothed woman heavy with child and then soon after, the very Son of God.  how must he have felt? honestly, i would love to know the inside scoop. i would love to get my hands on joseph's journal during that season of miracles and mayhem and new marriage. his words must have been wild.  his mind must have been wondering.  newborn babies are hard enough for men to grapple with, but add a heavenly host of angels, some wise men traveling from afar and no room in the inn and oh my! i bet his head was just spinning! and just when he thought he maybe had a handle on it, mary goes ahead and lets it be known she is "pondering things in her heart."  (i happen to know from experience that's downright scary for any man to hear). geesh...this guy couldn't get a break.  and all of it with him. always with him.

sitting near that manger, he had no idea just how much he would need this unforeseen babe.  even if he'd been told, there's no way he could have fully comprehended that this little lad in swaddling clothes was Lord of Life, Prince of Peace, Savior, Redeemer, Emmanuel.  i'm sure he held small baby boy and wondered if this tiny thing would ever be able to hold up his own head, let alone hold the whole world in His hands.  amazing to think of from the perspective of a papa, isn't it?  i remember those early days of first newborn.  nothing, not even a surprising visit from an unexpected angel, can prepare you.  there's not a one of us who is fully ready for the mighty cry of wee baby in those wee hours of morning.  how could joseph have known how his son, this boy, this Emmanuel, had come to save the world.  we all imagine greatness for our children....we dream big...we push and we prod and we prepare...but, honestly, we really don't know. 

"o come, o come Emmanuel and ransom captive israel."  ...i have sung these words for years.  i sang them before i even knew who this Emmanuel was or what this Emmanuel did or why in the world we were asking him to come.   there's probably not a christmas i haven't stood somewhere in someplace and sung the name Emmanuel.  and because i was a rather dramatic child (good thing i outgrew that!), i was drawn to this song's haunting melody.  it wasn't sweet and simple like away in the manger and it wasn't jolly and boisterous like jingle bells.  but there is a melancholy to this medieval song which pricks our hearts toward something serious.  when words like ransom and captive and exile are thrown in, there's no denying the gravity. 

i suppose i was just a young girl when i discovered this name of Jesus,  Emmaunel, means "God with us."  of course i was glad to learn it as a child.  how nice it was to have a reminder that God is with us. as a little one,  i found great comfort in the thought.  but, to be honest, as a somewhat rebellious teen, the idea of God always with us became a little disconcerting.  at times, i wasn't exactly sure i wanted to be reminded that God was always with me.  i mean i wanted Him with me when i was in the middle of a hard chemistry test or walking home on a dark night from a friend's house. sure i wanted Emmanuel right with me right then.  but i was also making enough poor choices which i had preferred to hide from my parents and of course from God too.  i wanted to choose the time and place of my Emmanuel.  but that isn't God, that's a genie in a bottle.  and it doesn't work that way.  God isn't waiting for us to rub the lamp and be beckoned.  God is with us. always. Emmanuel.

this year, again, i have found myself intensely drawn to the poignant melody of "o come Emmanuel."  and this year, i can assure you, it means something more than ever before.  because it has been this year, this 2011, in which i have learned just how close God can be. i have grasped just how "with me" this little babe in a manger really is.  it took cancer, and it's close friend fear, to show me more clearly the comfort of Emmanuel.  waking in the middle of the night, paralyzed with disasterous thoughts running hard in my head, i found my need for Emmanuel and i found my peace in Emmanuel.

i would lay in bed those weeks after diagnosis reciting scripture.  clinging to His word.    "even though i walk through the valley of the shadow of death, i will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff,  they comfort me."  (psalm 23:4).   i'm not sure i ever realized it before, but joseph's son,  baby Jesus, Emmanuel is in that psalm.  Jesus, my shepherd, "for you are with me."  Emmanuel. and i would calm in the midst of the that valley of the shadow.  God was with me.

going into surgery at the end of may, i felt His hand on me.  as scary as that whole thing was, the physical peace of "God with me" was supernatural.  "be strong and courageous.  do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you;  He will never leave you nor forsake you." (deuteronomy 31:6).   sweet baby Jesus, Emmanuel, is in those strong words as well.  this year, i met Emmanuel and this christmas, i rejoice in His coming. how about you? this christmas, where are you finding Emmanuel?  where have you been held captive?  where have you mourned?  been lonely?  felt exiled? tasted fear?  o loved ones, keep singing.  invite Him to come.  and rejoice!
 "rejoice!  rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to you...."

Oh, come, oh, come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to you, O Israel!

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