One of the benefits of being part of a faith community like St. John’s Old Town is that we are honest about what it means to celebrate the holidays together. Yes, there are so many things at this time of year which (are supposed to?) put smiles on our faces.

But, in reality, the stretch from Thanksgiving to Christmas to New Year’s can bring to the fore profound grief we still suffer from the various losses we have endured in our lives. We remember loved ones who have died and are no longer with us. We entertain regrets of decisions made or not made. We wonder if our future will come close to being as good as our past. It does not necessarily help that the nights get darker and the days get shorter. All of this, at a time when we cannot bring ourselves to buy into the melodic message that it is “… the most wonderful time of the year.” 

Yet it is in such a time the Church proclaims that God took on human flesh in Jesus of Nazareth. Why is the timing of this message important? 

There is a word, a name, used in Matthew’s gospel which is used apparently only three times in Scripture. In Matthew 1:23 we are told that the child to be born into the messiness of the world is to be called Emmanuel (or Immanuel), a name which means: “God is with us.” 

I find the preposition “with” to be strong and comforting. “With” implies community, solidarity, togetherness. “With” means we are not alone. 

God chooses to be with us. This is an element of the Christmas story we must not overlook.  

Even though the name “Emmanuel” may not be used that often in Scripture, the truth it describes can be found over and over again in the Bible’s message. As one example, just as Matthew began his gospel account stating that God is with us, Matthew closes his gospel with the Risen Christ’s promise: “I am with you always, to the end of the age” (28:20). 

As we at St. John’s Old Town enter the season of Advent, that time of eagerly expecting God to be with us, how might we enhance each other’s lives if we were to be intentional about being with one another? 

I look forward to being with each and every one of you as together we celebrate the truth of Emmanuel.  

In Christ,