Well friends, Advent is in full swing and we are fast approaching Christmas Sunday! And guess what? Christmas Sunday is….on CHRISTMAS! Traditionally we celebrate Christmas Sunday on the Sunday that falls closest to the 25th. But next week we will celebrate the morning of Christmas. And I’m excited. But today is the 4th Sunday of Advent.
We light a candle in celebration of love.
In the Advent Scripture from Isaiah today we are reminded that God comes to us as Immanuel. “God with us.” We have come to that time in Advent when we begin to really anticipate the birth of Christ. Most of you will be familiar with the story. Mary, the mother of Jesus, is engaged to Joseph. Except then she is pregnant. And it’s not Joseph’s baby. You can imagine the drama that this would create. It’s a story we want to romanticize. We like to paint a picture where both Mary and Joseph are overjoyed at the thought of having a baby but I have to believe that they both understood the hard work, the shame, the isolation they would face. They had enough faith to bravely accept the ways in which God had chosen to use them and follow wherever this path would lead.
The reality is that God comes to us in one of the most uncomfortable stories of all time. Single mother. Unglamorous birth story. Weird visitors. If it happened in my hospital today people would look the other way or maybe roll their eyes. But it leads me to believe that maybe God is at His best “Immanuel” in times when we are most uncomfortable. The difficult part is being able to recognize the Immanuel in our own lives. We tend to move away from the uncomfortable spaces, to stay quiet when we see something that isn’t right, to ask how others are doing with the expectation that they should say all is well.
God loved us enough to have Christ come into the most uncomfortable spaces in our lives. If we are to be His people then we must love in the same way. There is a lot to be uncomfortable with. Watch the news, read the headlines, get on social media. Aleppo. Violence against women. More gun violence. Road rage. Sexual assault on our college campuses. Cold and dark days of winter. But, because Immanuel, we can speak out against violence. Because Immanuel we can speak out against oppression and injustice. Because Immanuel we can sit with someone in their despair. The Immanuel allows us to sit in anger, bitterness, sadness and frustration with our lives and He doesn’t move away, He moves closer.
If we truly believe that God is with us today as He was way back then, then you must know that God will move with you into the darkest of spaces and that He calls you to move with someone else in the same way. It won’t be easy. It will feel uncomfortable. It will mean we have to move out of our daily self-centeredness and begin to notice the world around us. And it will be exhausting. Is it worth it? Honestly, some days I have no idea. The Pastor and I have spent lots of time in uncomfortable spaces with people. The return on investment is small; sometimes it’s nothing. But when I am at my most uncomfortable I want nothing more than to share my burden with another and believe in God as Immanuel. Like Mary and Joseph, we are called into the uncomfortable and God goes with us.