As we come to the end of yet another Christmas season where we remembered the birth of Jesus who is Emmanuel – “God with us” – perhaps we are asking one very profound question as the new year looms ahead of us:
So what? What’s the big deal?
What difference does it make to us, dear saints? What difference does it make in our families, in our community, and in the world if Jesus is Emmanuel? Life goes on doesn’t it? Tragedies occur. Friends face illness. Loved ones die. The obstacles we face haven’t changed. The world looks no different than it did yesterday or the day before.
Where is Emmanuel: the God who is with us and for us?
Sometimes coming off the high of Christmas where we’ve spent all this time building up to Jesus’ birth only to have it abruptly end, can take the breath out of us. Our energy can begin to wane, and the cold, dark winter trudges slowly onward toward the faintest hope of light and warmth. Everything turns normal again, and the mundaneness of everything seems to drown out every last spark of the divine that might be present.
Where is Emmanuel?
As I’ve thought, and prayed, and studied the birth narratives of Jesus, I’ve often found that the story, as beautiful and divinely inspired as we make it, is a testament not to God’s divine power that arrives with miraculous, supernatural doings. Instead, God chooses to enter into the chaos and the messiness of both the world and human relationships. God chooses to enter into the mundane things in a quiet, behind the scenes, very ‘human’ way.
Think about it. God enters through a pregnancy that occurs out of wedlock, to a young teenage girl. God has a man wrestle with an impossible relationship situation: a wife whom he’s never been intimate with who now carries a child. Then the couple gives birth in a barn because of worldly circumstances. The young family flees their home and into Egypt as refugees when a raging, power-hungry dictator threatens Jesus’ life. God doesn’t enter this world with might and power through thunder and lighting, but in the mundane, messy, chaotic relationships and circumstances that we all know so well.
Maybe that’s the powerful message of Christmas: that God enters into the chaos and messiness of our own lives and relationships – into the normal, everyday world we know. God didn’t come to us just for big, supernatural, miraculous workings, but to be with us in the small, mundane, chaotic, and messy everyday things.
I don’t know about you, but when I think of God being born into this world to be with us, it wasn’t for us to have a few major conversion experiences in life where we are born again, though that can and does happen, but God came for every mundane moment of our lives to be one incarnational moment after another, where the presence of God transforms us little by little, time and time again, to be a new creation, and about the new creation that God is up to in the cosmos.
To profess God is Emmanuel, is to profess that we are defined not by ourselves, but by a present relationship with God who is actively & lovingly at work in our lives. We are not alone in life and our lives are only made whole and complete in relationship with Emmanuel.
What is God doing in you this coming year, dear saints? How is Emmanuel transforming your life? God comes into every the moment and detail of your life to make all things new and whole.
What will you do in this new year to grow in your relationship with Christ? Like so many other things in life, investment is a key to growth. It doesn’t mean that God’s presence is contingent on our faithful investment in life for God is always with us, but the more we invest and seek to grow in our relationship with Jesus, the more the gifts of Christmas – love, and hope, and peace, and joy – become real, and the more we are able to see God in every detail of our lives.
Blessings in this new year, dear saints.
With Joy & Peace,