I cried in the car yesterday. I was just barely able to keep the tears back from the kind of full-blown weeping that would have made driving dangerous.
The day before I had loaded a favorite Christmas song on my phone. I had anticipated how much I would enjoy hearing it, but I wasn't ready for the gush of memories that would flood me as I listened.
Christmas seems to have unique role in helping us mark the passage of time in our lives. Few other parts of the year have us doing the same things on the same days over and over again. Every December, we put up a tree, and can't help but remember all the years of trees before this one. We hang ornaments and decorations, and think about who gave them to us or who made them, or how they looked in previous displays. Memories of pain, joy, and transition seem to attach themselves to objects, songs, and even the weather.
On that drive, as the tears came, the recollection of how much in my life has changed over the last five years came with them. I thought about the three different states in which I have lived, the job I started and resigned, the old friends I left behind, the new friends I met, and the kids I have watched grow from toddler to big kid status.
In this marking of time, I worshiped. I became overwhelmingly cognizant of God's presence with me through all the twists and turns, joys and sorrows, of my story.
Perhaps this is part of how the concept of Emmanuel can come to life at Christmas. We can look back and see how God has in fact been with us, even in places where we couldn't see it at the time.
Some of you might be in a season like that right now, a time when God feels absent. Perhaps hope could more easily be found in the past than on the future, through remembering how God was with you before.
For me, I got out of that car with renewed sense of gratitude and faith. Though there still many things in this world I don't understand, and ways I wish God would act, I cannot deny God's realness when I look at my own story.
Emmanuel. God has been with us. God is with us. God will be with us.
P.S. If you're looking for some ideas for Advent and Christmas songs, here is a Spotify playlist I put together of some songs I really like. It includes the one that made me cry- Come and Worship by Bebo Norman.