Marking Time and Seeing Emmanuel

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.

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.

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Wonder: Hormones and Ham, Misunderstanding and the Messiness of Christmas

I first met Laura Crosby in the blogosphere, and now have the honor of being part of the same church community. She is witty and wise, and I am glad to have her words today!

One of us in our family had a meltdown Friday night.  It might have included an ugly cry and talk about budgets, Christmas cards, ham, and insensitive comments.

My husband and I both worked really hard to understand each other, but OK, honestly John worked at it a lot harder than I did because, well, not to be sexist, but I'm a girl.  And he feels really bad when I cry.

On this night our discussion was kind of like a Christmas movie marathon that seems to go on forever and eventually the stories seem to start blurring together and you get really tired.  But John persisted and kept asking questions and listening until he finally said something and I grabbed him and yelled with great joy, "YOU SAID IT RIGHT THAT TIME!"

I felt like he finally got it.  He understood.  And he felt like he had vanquished the Abominable Snow Monster, guided Santa's sleigh through the blizzard, and saved Christmas in that moment.  He was my hero again.

It made me think of what Joseph must have gone through with Mary.  I mean really.  Jesus was fully human AND fully God, but Mary was just human!  She was hormonal, and still in her teens, and unmarried and poor.  And an angel had beamed down to have a chat with and her fiance.

Think of the conversations Mary and Joseph must have had as they navigated this crazy journey of morning sickness, and gossipy friends, and a long "road" trip without McDonald's bathrooms!  There must have been tears and confusion.  Trying to understand what each other was feeling.  Trying to support each other.

Guy or girl.  Married or not.  Doesn't matter.  We long to be heard.  To be understood.  To have someone truly experience our mess with us.

Enter Jesus.  Emmanuel.  God with us in our mess.

How mind-blowing it is to think that there's nothing in my life God can't relate to.  Nothing He can't understand.  Even my ugly cries.

Because He's God.  And He left heaven to enter into the mess of our humanity.

Mary.  Joseph.  You.  I believe God enters in, and like a parent with a distraught child, He holds us close and whispers, "I know.  I know.  I really understand.  It'll be alright."

Where in your life do you long for a sense of God's presence and understanding?

"We don't have a priest who is out of touch with our reality. He's been through weakness and testing, experienced it all—all but the sin. So let's walk right up to him and get what he is so ready to give. Take the mercy, accept the help."  Hebrews 4:14-16 MSG

 


 

About Today's Guest Blogger: Laura Crosby

I'm Laura Crosby, a follower of Jesus who gets it wrong a lot.  I'm trying to pay attention to the work of God in, through, and around me, but it's definitely a sloooooow process! I love creating all kinds of things, including a welcoming place in our home where there’s good food and lively conversation. I’m a friend to twenty-somethings journeying with Jesus. I try to be outside or at Starbucks as much as possible.  My husband and I approach ministry as a team and have a mutual fan club with our daughters who live in D.C. I blog at awakemysoulblog.com and tweet at @lauracrosby_mn.

 

Wonder: Rediscover the Christmas Story is an Advent series designed to help us pause and reflect on how amazing the stories of Jesus' birth really are. To break through the cluttered busyness of the season and touch our hearts with the awe of what God has done. Let's make this a season of wonder and worship, marveling together at our great God.

 

Is Emmanuel a Christmas Word?

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.

After Easter.

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.

Not just at Christmas, but today. Always.

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!