The Christmas season passes in a haze of color and sound. Amazon boxes pile up by the front door. Commercials promise joy is a credit card swipe away: Buy a Coca-Cola so your family can experience “real magic!” Guatemalans stock up on firecrackers, prepare tamales and set the nativity scene under the tree.
We harbor big hopes for Christmas. We dream of a five-course meal and a raise at work. We pick out matching holiday pajamas. We ask Santa to bring a Peloton bike, an engagement ring, and a life renewed. We want a picture perfect Christmas-a happily ever after fit for the Hallmark Channel.
In reality, Christmas brings disappointments as well as joys. There are family arguments and forgotten gifts. Layoffs and losses. Burned pies and canceled flights. Loneliness aches like a phantom limb, nerves crying out that something is missing.
The Christmas Story is full of people like us. Maybe like Mary, you are stuck traveling, far from the comfort of home. Or you relate with the shepherds, working long hours covering the graveyard shift. Spiritual seekers identify with the wise men, searching for meaning among the stars. Couch sleepers relate to Joseph, desperate to find a comfortable resting place.
Into this mess and mayhem of humanity, a child is born. He fulfills the prophecy of Isaiah years before:
“The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son and will call him Emmanuel” Isaiah 7:74.
Emmanuel means God with us. Since the beginning, God was with His people -as a burning bush, a pillar of fire, glorious light- but this was something new. Jesus became human, uniting with us, taking on all our indignities and pitfalls. He was born a vulnerable infant who grew into a wandering prophet. He felt hunger and thirst. He celebrated at weddings and mourned at funerals. Jesus experienced rejection, disappointment, and heartache.
Jesus is Emmanuel-God with us. Both fully God and fully human, Christ knows our sorrow and longing firsthand. He perfectly comforts the weary and burdened, knowing just how it feels. He is beside us through every joy and sorrow and will be with us forever (Matthew 28:20).
Jesus is God with us here and now. He is present in the hills of Guatemala, the medical center of Houston, and the war-torn streets of Jerusalem. He is with you at your in-laws’ house and the airport terminal.
God is with us, and He unites us with each other. We are the body of Christ, stretched across continents and time zones. In Guatemala, carolers go door-to-door, remembering Mary and Joseph searching for an inn. In Chicago, a doctor pours a perfect cup of Antiguan coffee.
As you experience the love and loss that the holidays bring, we pray you remember God is with you. He isn’t waiting for a picture-perfect moment. He is right there, amidst the chaos, a baby in a manger, sent to seek and save the lost.