Emmanuel – Part Two


What would it look like to live in a world without pain?  This time of year we like to focus on words and sentiments that bring warmth to our hearts.  Oftentimes by December, when the cold is finally starting to settle in and the sun sinks below the horizon earlier and earlier leaving less time for the earth to be warmed by its fading rays, we are more than ready for the cheery Christmas music, peppermint mocha lattes and prospect of gift opening with our family and friends. 

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. 

Emmanuel – Part One


“O come, O come Emmanuel,

And ransom captive Israel

That mourns in lonely exile here

Until the Son of God appear

Rejoice! Rejoice!  Emmanuel,

Shall come to thee, O Israel. “

O Come, O come Emmanuel has been one of my favorite Christmas carols for years.  I think the bittersweet tone of the music and lyrics speaks to me of reality, acknowledging the pain present in the world, but not neglecting to proclaim the hope found in Emmanuel – Jesus – the promised Messiah.

The message of the well-known carol could easily be a parallel to our every day prayers as a group of believers working to help women marred by the commercial sex industry.  With Christmas right around the corner we battle with the contrast between the comfort of our own lives and our happy plans for a Christmas Day filled with gifts, family and food and the ever-present reality of the struggles our girls face daily. 

Will they have a place to stay?  Will they be able to enjoy a Christmas meal with loved ones?  Will there be presents under the tree for their children, if there is a tree at all?  With limited resources and weary hearts we search for the meaning of Emmanuel – “God with us” – and the hope in the promise He fulfilled when he came to us on Christmas Day, so many years ago.

We all have different struggles and come from different walks of life.  Within our team alone, so many diverse life experiences are represented.  In speaking with a member of our team, I was reminded that it’s often the little things that keep Emmanuel in our hearts and minds.  A beautiful sunrise or a kind word from a friend.  Small things that whisper “God with us” to our hearts, help us to look outward, and share His love not just with our girls, but all of mankind.

This Fall I have had the pleasure of becoming good friends with one of our girls who has joined our That Grace Restored team.  She recently shared with me that although she has been through a rough year, facing many obstacles as she strives to move forward with her life, Emmanuel, God with us, has been increasingly impressed on her heart as Jesus has proved Himself faithful in providing needed support and opportunities. 

If you would, take a moment with me to dwell on the name Emmanuel.  Soak in the meaning, “God with us.”  How has He revealed Himself to you this year?  How has He shown Himself faithful in the midst of both blessing and pain?

 Check back tomorrow for PART 2 – Thoughts on how Emmanuel helps us guide others to healing.