Emmanuel means God with us.
But what does “God with us” mean?
Lately, I’m tired. Overwhelmed. A little stressed, frustrated. Even a tad sad. And my patience wears thin this week. Certainly not the perfect picture of Christmas.
I attended a dear friend’s funeral on Tuesday. It was beautiful, if a funeral can be described in that way. At forty-three years of age, Claudia finally beat cancer by stepping through death’s door. She’s now cancer free, without pain, no IVs, no more chemo. Not only is she cancer-free, she is free from all the struggles in this life. She is with God. Love. Peace. Joy.
But on this side of death’s door, we endlessly strive for a taste of love, peace, and joy. We have laws and socially accepted rules to “keep the peace,” but we can’t mandate it, let alone whether it comes from love. And where does that leave joy? Only a fairytale? Are we without any hope of knowing for the briefest of moments a self-sacrificing love? A deep peace transcending human comprehension, even in the midst of the world’s pandemonium? And joy? Well, is there such a thing beyond momentary happiness and satisfaction?
After being awakened in the wee morning hours by a soft padded paw tapping my shoulder and chirping out a “mee-ow” to be let outside (I guess he doesn’t believe in using the litter box, anymore), I stared at the blurry numbers on the digital clock. Thoughts of this week’s schedule filled my mind. Do I fumble for my glasses? Nah. Why would I want to know the time, anyway? I felt for my phone next to my pillow where I left it right before falling asleep. The bright light made me squint. I turned on the “night mode” before opening my YouVersion Bible app. Reading the Bible always takes my focus off all that troubles me, especially during early morning hours, which is the worst time to solve life’s problems. Reading from a different version of the Bible every year helps keep God’s Word fresh, instead of bogging me down with “last year’s findings.” The Complete Jewish Bible is this year’s version of choice.
“She will give birth to a son, and you are to give Him the name Yeshua, which means ‘Adonai saves’ (because He will save His people from their sins).” ~Matthew 1:21 (CJB)
As I closed my eyes, I found myself kneeling at the foot of the bed of hay supporting the swaddled infant named Yeshua, Jesus the Christ – Emmanuel. Stillness and awe overwhelmed any remaining nagging tension. Barely breathing, I observed with spellbound fascination God’s spoken Word, the power of God, wrapped in human flesh, gifted to the world, for the world’s sake – for my sake. Tears of fatigue, sadness, and frustration fell at the Babe’s feet as I realized, yet again, why He was sent.
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only and unique Son, so that everyone who trusts in Him may have eternal life, instead of being utterly destroyed. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but rather so that through Him, the world might be saved.” ~ John 3:16-17 (CJB)
Tears of anxiety, even fear, were replaced with streaming, wet drops of worship as my heart swelled with gratitude, humility, and wonder. This Baby was sent to be born in order to die. His purpose in this life was death. For the world. For me.
When Adam and Eve disobeyed God in the garden, sin entered the scene, right into our hearts, our souls. Condemnation, separation from God was sin’s “gift” to mankind, which ultimately meant death. Jesus Christ was born for the purpose of the great eternal “gift exchange:” condemnation and separation from God for His perfection and righteousness. Death for life. His death for my life.
At the foot of the manger, I found Emmanuel, which means God with us…
…the ultimate Gift of love,
offering of peace, filling of joy…
and promise of HOPE for us, in us.
What will you find when you go to the foot of the manger?