We speak of our hopes for peace for everyone from estranged families to torn nations. Our hearts are at worst focused on our own self-interest, on our need for the coveted “comfort and joy”, and at best on the birth of Jesus, a Savior-King, whose outpouring of love prompts us to enjoy relationship with Him and share His love with others.
But what does it really mean to celebrate Emmanuel? How can those among us who know the true meaning of deep, searing pain have joy? How can they embrace “God with us,” when they are very much in need of healing, and God feels so distant?
Ann Voskamp, in her recent bestselling book “One Thousand Gifts,” discusses her own suffering and tragic loss. Faced with deep pain and unanswered questions, she cries out to God, and discovers “eucharisteo” – the place where grace and thanksgiving meet to yield joy. In essence, an experience of Emmanuel.
Although we are often powerless to prevent suffering, as much as we may strive to do so, we are able to create space for those dealing with heartache, abuse, poverty and destroyed self worth to experience grace. Emmanuel, “God with us”, is displayed through our response to the Gospel by being the hands and feet of Jesus to those in need of healing.
The question turns from “What would it look like to live in a world without pain?” to “How do we create space for Emmanuel to reach the hearts of the lonely and suffering with His grace?”
Sometimes this means not only paying for the homeless man on the corner’s lunch, but taking time to hear his story. Sometimes it means sharing some of your Christmas cookies with your elderly neighbor. Sometimes it means just sitting and talking to a girl, fresh off a shift at the local strip club, learning to listen without judgment and without agenda.
Through Serenity’s Steps and That Grace Restored, we attempt, by the power and leading of Jesus, to create space for our girls to experience the healing grace of Emmanuel. It’s rarely easy or pretty, but when a girl comes to me and tells me that because of her growing personal experience of Emmanuel, she is empowered to tell her story to encourage others, it all becomes worth it.
Whether you are enjoying rich blessings or are struggling to pay the bills this Christmas, whether you are relishing a close relationship with God or are desperately wondering where He is in your life, Emmanuel comes with open arms, to save and to heal. Allow Him to draw you deeper into the meaning of “God with us” this Christmas.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee O Israel.