As I set out the pieces of my nativity set, I find myself lost in thought. The story represented by these simple figurines is as familiar to me as my own tale. I have heard it told, read it quietly, and watched actors portray it. And yet, somehow, today it feels different.
There is a profound spiritual intimacy at play here. Placing Mary into the crèche, I am struck by her life. A simple woman, a teen perhaps, given the task of raising a King. What must it feel like to find yourself faithful to God and embraced by him, too? What did she hear when his voice cried out? What is it like to find yourself truly with God?
Even as the question comes to me, I am ashamed. Because the truth is that He is with us. Today. Right now. As you sit and read these words, He is with you. And I wonder, as I set the remaining pieces of the nativity in place, what my life would look like if I lived each day in the full knowledge that God is with me. Immanuel. Today.
Wondering for myself is not enough. Because as a momma, I must ask myself if I am clearly teaching my kids that this important part of the Christmas story is living still. What would we choose to do or choose not to do if we were newly aware that God is with us? Not with us in a way that we feel caught or judged, but with us in a way that He so loves His people that He chooses to walk alongside us. If I really allowed myself to connect to that truth and if I shared it with my children, too…what would our lives look like?
It is easy to get caught up in the craziness of Christmas. It's easy to tie the semantics of this season to the season itself. But when we read about Joseph’s dream that his son would be God’s son, when the father of the Father’s child learns that the baby would be called Immanuel, God with us, we know this is not a tale for Christmas alone.
God's presence abiding with us is a deep and powerful truth. Because in the midst of our hardest day, He is with us. As we rejoice and weep, He sits alongside. As we speak love to our children and teach them of Him, His arms encircle and pull us close. We are drawn into spiritual intimacy with our Savior. Even when do not see.
Matthew 1:23 announces, “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us)."
My nativity tells a story. But this story is bigger than the holidays. This story tells me of hope and truth and a God who so loved His world that He broke in and chose to be God with us.
And this is what He chooses still.
Rev. Dr. Rob Toornstra