Today has me thinking about Christmas. I admit, that sounds a bit weird. Easter was only 2 days ago. There are still many weeks and months and seasons before Christmas comes again.
But I can’t help but think of Christmas when I hear the word “Emmanuel.”
I am thinking about Emmanuel today.
“O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” gets me every time. I love the haunting tone and the call to rejoice. After all, that’s why we celebrate Christmas. Emmanuel means God with us. Christmas celebrates how God come to earth in the form of Jesus.
Emmanuel is a great message for Christmas. But it is also causes a problem.
Sometime after Jesus’ resurrection appearances, He asked His followers to gather on a mountain side. He told them that He was leaving. He rose from the dead, but that didn’t mean He was staying on the earth. He was returning to the Father. He was leaving the work of spreading His message to them.
If Emmanuel, God with us, was the message of Jesus coming to earth, what happens when Jesus leaves the earth?
Jesus answered that question Himself. He ended His message with the words,
And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. –Matthew 28:20
Yes, Jesus ascended into heaven. But He left things fundamentally changed for humanity. Jesus tore the Temple curtain with His death and opened the grave with His resurrection. Where we used to be separated from God, we can now abide in Jesus. When we believe, His Spirit lives in us.
Emmanuel is the primary reason I believe in the resurrection.
I could point to historical evidence. Belief in a resurrected Jesus is more rational than many people think. But historical evidence is not why I believe.
I believe in the resurrection because I have met Jesus. Matthew 28:20 is true.
How do I describe these experiences? I might talk about my relationship with God, how His Spirit indwells me, or how His living and active Word shapes me. But I know these words might sound confusing or freaky or cheesy. Yet I don’t know how else to say it sometimes. I grasp for descriptions, when words seems so utterly insufficient to express what has happened in my life.
I don’t know what words I should use. But here’s what I do know.
I know that when I was 12 years old, I was depressed. And somehow, somehow, I understood that reading Psalms would bring me comfort. And so I read one, each night, before falling asleep. And when I did, I felt Love wrap around me and hold me in His arms. Emmanuel was with me.
I know that when I was 19 years old, I was searching. I was in the woods with a Bible asking God, would He please, please, speak to me? Would He tell me how He felt about me? And I sensed my hand, guided to verses that spoke specifically to my heart. Jesus answered the questions I didn’t even have the courage to ask. Emmanuel was with me.
I know that when I was 22 years old, I needed direction for my future. I was praying for guidance when opportunities dropped in my lap, when people spoke unrequested words of affirmation. And, before I knew it, Jesus held my hand and guided me on a path to vocational ministry. Emmanuel was with me.
And I know that when I was 27 years old, I was in the hospital. Pregnancy complications put my life and my newborn son’s life at risk. I was scared, but somehow, had peace. An amazing story of name that fit all too well, and I knew I was not alone. Emmanuel was with me.
I know these kinds of stories can sound unbelievable or like Christian jargon. But, they are my experiences. I have met Emmanuel.
I never did anything big to deserve Emmanuel. I just asked for Him to come. I wanted forgiveness. I wanted Jesus to change my life. And I wanted Him to be with me always.
And now, He is. Even when I don’t feel it, I know it. Because I know the stories of my past, and I know the stories there will be in my future.
Happy Easter. Emmanuel is here.
This is the conclusion of the Reveal series for Lent. I would love to hear your comments. What does “I am with you always” mean to you? What have the “I am” statements of Jesus revealed to you this Lenten season?
Read the post before this one: The most terrible and good day in history.
P.S. So excited that this is my 100th post. I love that it fell on the day I post on one of my favorite verses in Scripture. Thanks for joining me on this blogging journey!