Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel, which means "God is with us."
Every time I see the word ‘Emmanuel,’ I instantly hear the synthesizers start up in Amy Grant’s Christmas album version. I’m probably dating myself here, but when I was a child, this album was my signal that Christmas was nearing. My father’s insistence that the whole family gather while Amy blasted over the stereo has burned an indelible mark on my brain! Sadly, my father isn’t with us anymore, and honestly the next thing that happens after thinking of Amy Grant’s tender Tennessee Christmas is I get teary eyed thinking about my dad and how much I miss him. Grieving anything always feels worse at the holidays, but there is another perspective to consider.
Emmanuel, God is with us.
Maybe you don’t know how you’re going to make ends meet this year. It’s going to be hard to give your kids the magical Christmas that they are looking forward to, let alone treat yourself to something nice. Emmanuel, God is with us.
It’s been a really rough couple of years for your mental health. Now that it’s the holidays, you can’t take one more thing on your list, your social anxiety is fighting with your depression and there’s no winner here. Emmanuel, God is with us.
You just aren’t feeling it this year, you or your child are finally coming to terms with being LGBTQ+ and frankly dealing with the older generations in your family is going to be a challenge…your expectations have been dashed in years past and you don’t know if you can find a reason to be jolly. Emmanuel, God is with us.
Our world is in turmoil. The tripledemic is raging, people are being oppressed worldwide and many countries are at war. Climate change is real and scary, and it’s hard to have faith. Emmanuel, God is with us.
My point isn’t that we can ignore the realities of our world, blindly believing that God will magically snap his fingers and make it ‘right.’ This is not the reality that God promises us, but it’s easy to set ourselves up for a meaningful Advent and then fall short when we just can’t make it happen. Mary and Joseph certainly had their fair share of daunting human problems--an unplanned, unexplainable pregnancy, possibility of divorce, a dream with an angel, a messy birth in a barn with animals looking on, not to mention the real emotions they both must have had surrounding all of these events. But God was with them, providing a soft place to land and a presence to take comfort in. Opening our hearts to Jesus is accepting that we are human and choosing to carry on anyway, because thankfully, Emmanuel, God is with us.
Oh—and if you had no idea what the Amy Grant Christmas album is, I highly suggest checking it out and listening to Emmanuel. It dawned on me that the lyrics are really simple, just a constant stream of Emmanuel, and of course the synthesizers, because it was the ‘80s. But it’s just what I needed to hear when looking at what my crazy, chaotic Christmas is shaping up to be—a constant hitting over the head reminder of God being present in all the good, bad and ugly that is in my life. Emmanuel! God is with us!