Even though in my mind, I’ve placed Him in a stinky manger, far off and in another time, He calls himself Emmanuel. God with us. These very words can also be heard often throughout the season in a Christmas song that plays throughout your shopping day, church and possibly your own playlist while you are at home.
What does it really mean, though? What does it mean to see Emmanuel in a story riddled by betrayal during a season that is supposed to be joyful, bright and filled with happiness? I sat quietly in my office for a moment as I thought about this question for myself and for so many others around me.
He is with us when we can’t bring ourselves to send the Christmas card with the “family” photo because it feels like a lie, or maybe it shows our new reality of divorce or separation.
He is with us when we try to decorate the Christmas tree with our kids and find it near impossible as we pull out ornaments that overwhelm us with memories of a past that appeared to be one thing, but was actually something else.
He is with us when we are traveling to extended family and know there won’t be a soul there who gets us. Instead, there will be those who stand back in judgement and lay expectations on us to show up for the sake of the season.
He is with us when we are in a store and experience a trigger that is so massive it backs us up in a corner and holds us there until we can catch our breath again.
He is with us as we lay in bed and look at our husband’s face in the dark, wondering what is going on “over there.”
He is with us when we need that frightened little girl inside of us to be held.
He is with us as we navigate so many of the unknowns. He sees the brave face and the secret tears.
He is with us when we call our adult children and ask about their holiday plans. Praying they include us, and also wrestling with the possibility of being in the same space with our ex spouse.
He is with us as we search the internet for THE thing that will make the bleeding of our soul stop.
He is with us when we are pouring over scripture looking for answers and a glimpse of hope.
He is with us when we pause for a moment and do something that is caring for ourselves and refreshing for our soul.
He is with us when we stand in church and sing from a depth in our soul that can only hold a fraction of His power.
Can I be honest? I lose sight and think Jesus is twirling through the holiday season like a Nutcracker character, far removed from the grief and hurt that can wrap itself around us this time of year. The truth of the matter is, He sits in the middle of the hard and downright impossible with each of us.
So once again I will stand in awe this Christmas season of all that He has done for us. I will remember that He isn’t back in the manger, far off, fragile, small and dependent on His parents. He is still the Savior who died and rose again. The One who sent the Holy Spirit to live within us and be Emmanuel, God with us. And, He is smiling when we see His presence and ask for more of Him.
Lord, your word is stuffed with promises that we need to be reminded of over and over. Help us to see your presence as we attempt to stay present. Help us to sense your affections toward us as we try to navigate a season that can feel so conflicting. Help us to find our strength in Your joy over us. Father, we know that you ask for our weakness so that we can be made strong again. Help us to surrender the things we are holding on to and receive your strength for this day and this season. In Jesus Name, Amen.