“With” is a powerful word. It is an important word.
The word “with” is a preposition because it exists to indicate associations, togetherness, and connections between things and people.
Yawn. What is this, a grammar lesson? Hang tight, read on. Stay with me for a few minutes.
My heart hurts some at this time of year when everything and everybody searches frantically for the “true meaning of Christmas.” The conclusion usually is a “together” piece, human to human.
Cards, Christmas specials and advertisers say that Christmas is about being with family and friends or that Christmas is not about the presents under the tree but the people around the tree. Nice, right? Warm fuzzies all around … she found her soulmate … he came home for Christmas … friends came to George Bailey’s rescue. Christmas.
No. No, that’s not Christmas. We all love those things because we were all wired for community and connections, but they are not the meaning of Christmas.
Don’t worry, I’m not going to put Scrooge on blast on you. I’m not going to make you feel guilty for overspending, drinking too much eggnog or forgetting the poor. I’m not talking about that stuff … I’m talking about Christmas.
Why does my heart hurt? It hurts because our cultural picture of Christmas has missed the point entirely. Our cultural Christmas makes the lonely feel more alone, the grieving feel greater grief and those most in need of hope feel even more hopeless.
Christmas is not about who gathers around the tree with you. It is not about my seemingly perfect family sitting around a fancy table set with fancy Christmas dishes that come out once per year. It’s not about your soulmate. It’s not about all of your dreams coming true. I’m sorry, that’s not what Christmas is at all.
Christmas is about the exact opposite. Christmas is about the person who is alone. Christmas is about the person who has no peace. Christmas is about the person with little and the person who has lost all hope.
Immanuel is what he is called. It means “God with us.” Christmas is about the planet-altering birth of God, in human form, with his plan to heal the hurting, comfort the grieving, bring hope to the hopeless, give freedom to the oppressed and peace to the warring. Christmas is when God said, “No, you are not alone. You are never alone. My Presence is with you forever.”
We’ve missed the point of that lowly hillside, my friends. We’ve lost the good news of the angel to a ragtag group of marginalized, insignificant and totally unimportant shepherds. We’ve seen it on so many cards and heard it so much that you are going to skim this next part:
“Don’t be afraid. I’m here to announce a great and joyful event that is meant for everybody, worldwide: A Savior has just been born in David’s town, a Savior who is Messiah and Master.” Luke 2, The Message
Skimmed? Got it? All set, right?
Wait. Wait, especially if you are alone. Wait, if you are grieving. Wait, if you hate this season and cannot wait until it is over. Wait. Read it again, slowly.
A Savior. Messiah. Master. For everybody. For you.
The ancient book of prophecies said this Savior would be Immanuel and change absolutely everything. God with us.
Honestly, isn’t today’s cultural Christmas entirely different? Isn’t it as if the angel said, “Behold, I bring you news that will be for families and people who are not alone?” Isn’t it as if the child they announced really was unimportant in the grand scheme of things? Isn’t most of life today lacking “Savior” and “Messiah?”
God with us. Savior. Messiah.
Hope to the hopeless. Joy to the joyless. Love to the loveless. Forgiveness to the unforgivable. Presence to the lonely and forgotten. Purpose to the purposeless.
My heart aches not because you are alone at Christmas but more so that you truly believe you are alone. How I wish you would know Immanuel and that he never leaves you, never turns his back on you and dwells within you when you let him.
My heart aches for you who lost a loved one and see this season only for the discomfort it brings. How I wish that you would trust Immanuel and see that the Comforter has come to hold you and make you whole. How I wish this season would remind you of his presence in your grief.
My heart aches for you who feel so poor in this season of American excess. How I wish that you would know Immanuel who promises to provide all that you need. How I wish that he would be enough.
Whatever hillside you are on, no matter how dark your night, no matter how large your challenge or how deep your hurt, my prayer is that you know that angel’s message is for you and me today.
The Savior has been born. A rescuer has come. God with us, Immanuel.
I pray that you let him save, rescue, comfort, heal and forgive.
You, my friend, never have to be alone.