It comes up too often to ignore, to push aside and move on. Whether lingering over warm cups in my favorite coffee shop, sitting face-to-face at the kitchen table, or side-by-side on a fireside sofa, our conversations often come to “where is God in this?”
Where, indeed, is God in the dark places that mark our experience – discouragement, wayward children, cancer, divorce, Alzheimer’s, depression, anxiety, overwhelming weariness?
Our Advent reflection this week reminds us that Jesus is God. He is Immanuel, God with us.
I certainly take that gift for granted, but when Jesus arrived as a baby everything changed for God’s people. Instead of finding God only in a Holy place within the Temple walls, now He walked among them. Instead of a chosen few Levite men being qualified to come into God’s presence, He became present.
We notice skeptical surprise in old Zechariah when, after 400 silent years in the Temple, God’s messenger declares the unfolding of the Immanuel plan. Even in the very place where God had promised to dwell, he wasn’t ready for God to show up. (Luke 1:5-20)
Compare that with the messenger’s next stop to a young virgin in Nazareth – about as far away from the Holy of Holies in the Temple as any good Jew was willing to travel. Yet in this out of the way place, to a girl who had much to lose in the process, the plan for Immanuel’s coming was received with hope. (Luke 1:26-38)
As Jesus grew, He visited the Temple often to learn and teach, but He never entered the Holy of Holies where the Spirit of God dwelt. He was not allowed. Instead, we are told He met the Father alone on mountains, under olive groves, in a home in Bethany, among the least of them, even with the demon-possessed and prostitutes!
And as He took His final breath, the effect of His death ripped the dense fabric that secluded the Holy of Holies. Never again would God be exclusive to one place . . . to one people. God is with US.
Where is God in your difficult relationships?
in your testing circumstances?
in the dark reality of our sin-filled world playing it’s drumbeat over news and social media?
Dear friend, He is here. I can’t prove it to you, but He can. I can’t take away your pain and confusion, but He will. He is as close as your whispered prayer, as urgent as your aching heart, as present as your deepest regret. There is one thing you must do: BELIEVE.
Don’t’ just believe that Jesus can be with you, but that He already IS.
Pause to reflect:
Psalm 31. This Psalm seems more dreary than cheery, unless you look through the lens of belief. David wrote this with anticipation, but we already live in the reality of the closing line: “Expect God to get here soon” (Message paraphrase). How might you place your life in God’s hands hour by hour this Advent season?
O Come, O Come Immanuel by Selah: