Relentlessly dismal news hangs over us like thick grey skies, predicting gloomy days ahead. From bomb ravaging Aleppo, to friends’ struggle with cancer, tragic fires, plane crashes, terror and corruption, one might wonder about the Christmas greeting:
Emmanuel - God with us.
God with us?
The question pleads, “Really? Where?”
I’ve been tempted to ask this since returning from Kenya. Our first Christmas home in 5 years but hard realities of living in a developing nation return to haunt me… broken children crawling, limping, hoping for a smile. HIV positive mamas, orphaned babies, millions of abandoned, neglected, forgotten... God with us? I cry at the loss while colorful lights twinkle.
Where is He? The Savior heralded by an angel to lowly shepherds so long ago:
“Don’t be afraid! I bring good news of great joy to all people.”
“God is with you.” The voice resonates in my heart.
I’m reminded of a recent prayer time when an acquaintance assured me with confidence, “God wants you to know He is with you.” Or the stranger at the mall on Black Friday who took a risk by walking over to me, placing her hand on my shoulder and confessing, albeit uncomfortably, “I’m supposed to tell you God is near. He’s with you.”
These reminders shake my core. I recognize the mistake of missing this truth. Instead of welcoming God in the midst of misery and believing He restores all in His time, I expected God to follow my plan to right the wrongs. I forgot; there is an enemy named evil. Sadly, God get blamed for all its ugly turmoil. God also becomes guilty of mankind’s depravities – choices to inflict wickedness that spreads like a pandemic. The consequences ruin even innocence. Maybe God hates evil because its wounds infect us - His beloved.
Our Creator’s great love keeps us from being utterly consumed. He came as a babe who grew to a man. He felt tired, hungry and thirsty. He wept, groaned and experienced agony. His pure devotion, uncontaminated by evil, sacrificed to win our freedom from depravity. He willingly took the reproach forced on Him to remain with us forever.
God came to live with us.
He’s still here.
God wants to reach the desperate in Syria, He longs to rescue the lost from dirty streets, hold the overlooked, and find the broken hidden in far-away hovels. He desires to feed the hungry, to satisfy thirsty souls, to comfort those who suffer and soothe their aches with healing balms.
How does God do that when the earth itself moans from the weight of inhumanity?
God lives in the hearts of those who ask Him. And from those hearts, He touches others with mercy. His truth-bonded grace carries redemption far beyond the temporal. I see it when volunteers work with refugees and when our church shares food boxes with needy families. I read about it in a woman’s post thanking the community for their care during her grief and in beautiful letters from missionaries serving in desolate places. I receive it when helpful hands surround me, reminding me…
God is with you.
As you scan the horrible headlines or live in unnamed sorrow, please know Hope shines even when foggy confusion hovers. Believe the words of the angels spoken long ago –
“Don’t be afraid… there is good news that brings great joy…
Emmanuel, God with us.”