“The Word became flesh and blood,
and moved into the neighborhood.
We saw the glory with our own eyes,
the one-of-a-kind glory,
like Father, like Son,
Generous inside and out,
true from start to finish.”
(John 1:14, The Message)
We highlighted this passage on our Christmas cards this year. It seemed to fit. This fall (and now into the winter) we have seen that glory with our own eyes, the glory of the Word made flesh and blood and moved into our neighborhood, into our house even.
On Sunday, as we sang, “O Come, O Come Emmanuel”, I reflected on this profound reality of Emmanuel, our God with us. He chose to become flesh and take up residence with us, not in the flesh of a king or emperor, rich or powerful. Instead He chose the flesh and blood of a baby, tender and needy, born to the scandal of an unwed mother. Yet here was the Messiah, our Savior, Emmanuel with us, and the whole earth trembled at the profound greatness of His coming.
And now here we are, sharing a house with another young unwed mother and her two beautiful children, born to that same scandal, yet full of the grace of Christ. I can see His face in these little ones. Emmanuel. God with us.
Last week we took in another young mom, just sixteen years old, and her new baby for several days while she worked out some things with her family (I’m finding that any sort of plan I have for ministry collapses into the simple plan of saying yes to the doors God opens and trusting that He’s going to meet us there). The house churned with life and I spent hours each day just sitting and talking, eating together, playing games together (a new and profound experience of family for Ashley), just taking it all in. And there He was in the midst of us again. Emmanuel. God with us.
In the turmoil of scandal, in the face of the outcast, in the eyes of a child who needs everything, there You are. Emmanuel. God with us, right in my own home, running down my hallways, sharing my food, greeting me as I come and go, leaving sticky fingerprints on tables. Oh so very much with us. Emmanuel living in our house.
Isn’t this what He promised, when He said, “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18) and “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:40)? This is where Emmanuel dwells and here He invites us to join Him at His home, to meet with Him there.
Of course, this Christmas rolled in with a short (and mostly sleepless) night and some drama that filled me with about as much “Christmas spirit” as Scrooge (bah humbug!), the sobering reminder of our still-present brokenness, even in the midst of that revelation of the reality of God’s presence with us. Even in the wrestling, though, God is still present. Emmanuel is with us. Yes (and I repeat this as much for myself as for anyone else), Emmanuel IS with us. We still carry this treasure in jars of clay and the work isn’t complete. We still need Him, so much more of Him. And so we both mourn and rejoice as we sing:
“O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.”