So sometime during this crazy year, my daughters started playing a game online called “Among Us.” The best I can tell it’s a who-dun-it mystery game where the culprit is “walking” among the players. One of the players is “it” and the rest are trying to figure out who “it” is.
As I read this morning’s verse of the day from YouVerse, these two words stood out and my understanding clicked into place – “Among Us.”
“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”John 1:14 ESV (emphasis mine)
This Christmas truth has been rattling around in my heart and head for most of December. I’ve shared with several friends how real His name, Immanuel, is to me this year.
Things are different. There is heartache and hurt in my family and beyond. My Facebook feed is a seemingly bipolar barrage of prayer requests for real problems and pain contrasting against happy sentiments and joyful celebrations.
Our family Christmases are different. One side of the family is not gathering at all. The other side is delaying our get-together due to contact tracing and quarantining. The socially distant picture with Santa in the background and my daughters all wearing their face masks almost seems right if not apropos to describe this year.
The entire year has been different. No explanation is needed. The “different” has touched us all and left us longing for Christmas of 2019 when we were blissfully ignorant of what God would allow for 2020.
Yes, I fully believe God has allowed all of 2020 to be 2020. None of it was out of His providential hand. All of it has served and continues to accomplish His purposes and plans. I cannot begin to understand or explain it, but fully know that His ways are higher and not mine. (I have had to remind myself of these truths A LOT this year!)
Enter in Advent, the period of time before Christmas where Believers are to prepare our hearts to celebrate the first coming of Christ. Every year, by His grace alone, God seems to impress a truth upon my heart to treasure and fuel my worship during the month of December. This year, the truth was simple. This year, the truth was a name, His name. This year, the truth is Immanuel.
The reason we give gifts on Christmas is not because the wise men brought gifts to Jesus, but because God gave us the first and greatest gift ever. He gave us His Son. Even the wrappings of this amazing gift is significant. His Son came as one of us – to live among us. The Word put on flesh . . .
Jesus experienced the full range of the human experience. He can relate. He knows what it feels like to celebrate, to laugh, to enjoy, to not know, to be hurt, to experience loss. Immanuel gets it. He gets us. He has been one of us.
Yet, the idea of “God being with us” didn’t end when He ascended back to heaven after the resurrection. He didn’t leave us here alone. He didn’t desire to see us tough it out on our own.
God desired from the time of Creation to be with us. We blew it, but He never stopped pursuing us. His gift, Immanuel, was the pinnacle of His redemptive work, but He didn’t stop there. He gave us another amazing gift, His Spirit – Christ in us…
“To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.”Colossians 1:27 ESV (emphasis mine)
We may not be able to actually see Jesus with us. We may not hear His words audibly. We may not feel the comfort of His physical hugs. – But He is closer to us than He has ever been. He is IN us.
We are not coping with the challenges of 2020 alone. He is Immanuel. He is with us.
We are not dealing with the losses of this year by ourselves. He is Immanuel. He is with us.
We are not facing the uncertainties of tomorrow solo. He is Immanuel. He is with us.
I confess that it is so easy to become bogged down in all that is heavy and distracting, but when I think about Who Immanuel is and that He is the one who is with me, the load lightens…
God – Creator, Sustainer, The Good Shepherd, The King of kings, The Prince of Peace – loves me, wants to be with me and went to inconceivable lengths to do just that – be with me! Think about the meanings and the implications of all of His names. This is the hope and joy of Christmas.
AND – He, this good God, Immanuel patiently woos me, waits for me and wows me with His grace.
Family and traditions are a big part of Christmas but they aren’t the meaning behind the holiday. Not for me. Especially not this year. This is the focus of my worship this advent. Both the verses I have shared with you have another idea in common – Glory.
This story of life isn’t about us. It’s all about Him and His glory. His creation continues to proclaim it. The last two evenings our family has donned shoes and jackets and gone outside to get a glimpse of “The Christmas Star.” It is not accidental or coincidental that this year or this season is the occurrence of the “natural” alignment of our universe’s largest planets in our night sky. Even Saturn and Jupiter are proclaiming His glory and begging us to worship.
We will one day see His glory with our eyes. Just as Mary, Joesph and the shepherds adored Him, gazing with awe and wonder – we will one day behold His glory too, when He returns and is physically among us once more.
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