This is the Day

exploring the soul's quest for joy

Month: December 2015

O Come, O Come Emmanuel

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“Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee o Israel!”

 

O Come O Come Emmanuel has always been one of my favorite Christmas carols, not just for its haunting, deeply melodic minor tones, but also because of its very poignant words that speak of the longing of a nation to be visited by their God. One of my favorite names for God is Emmanuel, which means “God with us”. There is not a more appropriate time of year to reflect upon the meaning of that profound word than at Christmastime, when God took on flesh and became man in order that He could be with us—in every sense of the word.

 

God desires not just for us to know Him, or love Him, or depend on Him, He desires to be with us. God’s initiative in moving toward us did not begin with the first Christmas, it began with His very first stroke of creation in making man and placing him in the Garden. In the Garden, God and man enjoyed sweet, perfect fellowship, walking and talking with one another in the cool of the evening. God was with us, and the proximity was extremely close.

 

Even after man’s sin and his being cast out of the place of being with God, God’s desire was always to be with His people. In the wilderness, despite their disobedience, God moved toward His people by instructing them to build the Tabernacle—the tented movable structure where God would meet with the priests on behalf of the people. In Hebrew, the word “tabernacle” literally means “dwelling place”. This is where God took up residence and dwelt among His people.

 

With the advent of Jesus, God became flesh and the second person of the Trinity dwelt, or “tabernacled”, among us. Jesus took on our nature, felt our pain, experienced our humanity. He could not have been more with us than when He lived in Israel in the first century. But Emmanuel-Jesus-did not stay with us. After the resurrection and the ascension, He returned to be with the Father, promising that He would send the third being of the Trinity—the Holy Spirit of God—to be with us.

 

Jesus tells us that it is better for us that He return to the Father, for in that way the Holy Spirit will come to be with us. Once again God is intentional as He moves toward us to be with us. We who believe are now the temple of the living God, indwelt at all times by His Holy Spirit.

 

Every bit of Emmanuel, all of Him—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—wants to be with you—every part of you. Not just the Sunday part. Not just the “I’m in a crisis” part. Everyday and all day long, He wants to be with you.

 

In this busy Advent season, how can we experience the incredible closeness of the presence of God with us? The same way that we always have. In the stillness of the Garden. In the quietness of the holy night in Bethlehem. We have to quiet ourselves down and put ourselves in a place where we can hear from God and allow His Spirit to speak to us. It is essential that we take time to pray alone and in small groups if we want to experience God being with us through His Spirit. Prayer and reflection are difficult things to find time for in the busyness of the Christmas season. But they are the essential things if we want to experience God with us. Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel has come to us!

Christmas Baby

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Luke 2:19

 

Twenty-two years ago today I became a mother. I don’t think there could have been a more ill prepared mother in the history of humankind than I was! Living in a foreign land far from family, with nothing but my young husband, a tattered copy of What to Expect When You’re Expecting, and my French-English dictionary by my side, I wasn’t the most confident mother-to-be. When the word onesie doesn’t even appear in the official Robert-Collins French-English dictionary and we were still about a decade away from the launch of the Internet, how in the world was I to know what the French called a onesie let alone where I might obtain one…or the suggested 20 versions of the same? I was not exactly ready to deliver my Christmas baby.

 

Mary also had a Christmas baby. The Christmas baby. I was double her age but most likely not double her in terms of preparedness.

 

While Mary did not hesitate to agree to be the mother of the Lord’s Christ, I imagine she never expected that she would deliver the Christ child in a stable in Bethlehem, far from her home in Nazareth. There was much that would surprise this young girl of 13 or 14, much that she would think about and ponder.

 

The book of Luke tells us that Mary “treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart”. Until I was a mother I never really understood what she was so busy pondering.

 

This night 22 years ago I delivered my first-born son and laid him in the comfort of fine white swaddling clothes to keep him soothed from the harsh realities of life outside the womb. All lullabies escaped my memory and would not pass my lips save this one alone: Away in a Manger. To my surprise, I recalled every word of this Christmas classic and sang all 3 verses as a lullaby to my own Christmas baby. The words that resonated with me the most are from the final verse: “bless all the dear children in Thy tender care and fit us for heaven to live with Thee there.” It quickly became clear that my deepest prayers and longings would forevermore be for the blessing and well-being of my children.

 

Clearly, I was beginning the mother work of pondering.

 

What would my son become? How could I shield him from adversity and pain? How would I teach him to become all that his heavenly Father had intended for him to become? I already knew I would love him from the depths of my being. That was irrevocably settled while he still lived within my womb.

 

Now the great question would become: would I trust that my God – his God – loved my son even more than I did?

 

We all carry many hopes and expectations for our children. Hopes of health and well-being. Dreams of success and security. The expectation of a life surrounded by love and compassion. We hope, and we ponder, and we pray. And in our hopes and expectations of what our children will become, the God-man beckons us to entrust them to Him. In Him all the promises of God are “Yes” and “Amen”. In Him is the fulfillment of all of our greatest hopes and expectations.

 

Soon we will leave the season of Advent, the season marked by waiting and watching, hoping and expecting, as we arrive at the glorious season of Christmas, the season of Immanuel, God with us. And we discover afresh that all of our hopes and dreams have their ultimate fulfillment in the God-man.

 

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