Immanuel, God with us?

"Behold the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel, which is translated, "God with us."  — Matthew 1:23
This week Christians celebrate the birth of Christ.  A reminder that God came to dwell among us.  If you are anything like me you might look around and wonder about God actually being "with us".  Turn on the news and you might find it difficult to see Him.  Violence, poverty, hate and the senseless loss of lives fill our headlines daily.  Or look into your own life and wonder where He is.  Have you asked for a mate and you are still sleeping alone?  Or is the mate you chose no longer choosing you?  Does the doctor's prognosis still resonate in your mind?  Or the taste of the chemo still linger in the back of your throat?  Have you asked for a child and your womb is still barren?  Or perhaps worse, have you had to bury the child you were given way too soon?  If God is with us then why isn't He doing something about all of this?  If He is "God with us" then where is He?  Where is He in the midst of our everyday struggles and our monumental pain?  Where?
Is He watching from a distance?  Is he some benevolent and calm observer waiting for me to do everything well or something right so that He can give me a reprieve from my difficulties?  Is He a tyrant ruler punishing me with pain, loss and loneliness because I haven't figured it all out?  Is He a leader who stands at the finish line and watches me as I stumble towards His voice because I cannot always tell the direction He is summoning me from?  Where are you, God?  Why does scripture specifically tell us that His name is translated "God with us" if He is so difficult to find?  Ahhh, perhaps that is why!  Maybe, He is encouraging us to consider that it will not always be easy to remember that He is with us.  But in fact He wants us to remember that He is with us. God – with us. 
From the glorious surroundings of heaven He came to the repugnant conditions of Earth.  He is here.  Look in the manger, the one with manure around it, He isn't in the castle, He is in the stable.  From hearing the praise of heavenly hosts He came to suffer the ridicule of thankless men.  Look there!  He is the one being screamed at and abused, that's Him with the nails and the cross.  From the safety of His Father's side to the impending fate of His human life, He came to suffer.  He is in this life, this pain with us!  From the rightful seat of His heavenly throne to the undeserved cradle of a cattle trough.  He knows about need.  He is a savior who was born into a family with little means.  He knows about feelings.  He wept, He got angry, He laughed and He felt lonely.  He hurt for His friends and longed for His family.  He bled, He cried, He had no place to lay His head and He was betrayed by those He trusted.  He knows how we feel!
No matter the concerns of your heart today – He has not forgotten you.  He has not left you.  He has not forsaken you.  He continues to be "God with us".  We must however realize that He is in the pain not in the absence of it.  He is NOT the destination.  He is the journey.  He is in the questions not just the answers.  He is in the manure, the mire, the blood and the betrayal.  He is in the battle as much as He is in the victory.  He is in the tears as much as He is in the smiles.  He came not only to die for us but to live with us.  Not in a perfect pain free world but in a world that tortured even Him.  In the abuse, in the lack, in the confusion, in the betrayal, in the grief, in the loss, in the cancer, in the addiction, He is there.  He is the grace and the love if we allow Him to be.  He is with us.  This week as we celebrate His presence, look for Him. He is unmistakably among us.  His life is the gift that brings peace to our soul, purpose to our hearts and value to our lives if we choose to LET HIM BE IMMANUEL.  God with us. 


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