I love a good story but I love a great story even more. One of my favorite great stories tells about people in a country in big trouble. They are afraid they are about to be overrun by powerful enemy armies, and all indications suggest their fears are well founded. Smack dab in the middle of their great fear, a young woman is about to give birth to a son and she decides to name him Immanuel.
The country is Judah, the young woman is nameless to us, and the name she chooses means God With Us! What a wonderful name to give a child! What an urgently needed sign that name is to a people overwhelmed with fear! And what a timely reminder this is to people everywhere who have ears to hear and a heart and mind to accept.
The horrors of this past week have again overwhelmed us with sadness and grief. The prevalence of such unprovoked violence can overwhelm us with fear as we wonder if there is such a thing as a safe place in our world. Such violence and mayhem can cause us to question where God is when such things happen.
While such questions can be expected, we should expect religious leaders to offer appropriate answers to our questions. Unfortunately, our expectations are not always met. After the recent horrors in Connecticut, some prominent religious leaders have suggested that because “God has been removed from the classroom” we should expect such things to happen. Is that an appropriate application of biblical truths? Is the reality of God With Us only a relic of the past? My earliest recollections of biblical truths include the teaching of God’s omnipresence—God’s presence with us everywhere all the time. Do some religious leaders not believe that now? Can God’s presence be made illegal? Or is God in the very midst of even our worst pain and suffering?
As I recall, in Jesus’ day the governmental powers, and even the religious powers, tried to do away with God’s presence in the person of his Son Jesus. That didn’t work! My firm belief is that the truth of Immanuel—God With Us, is not a truth for only particular times in history, nor can God’s presence among us be negated by mere human power or circumstance.
I’m always thankful for the reminder this holy season offers—the reminder that God is with us always and everywhere.
And on a personal note, as I conclude my ministry in our community through the Noble Avenue Baptist Church, I’m thankful for the daily reminders of God’s presence with us. Those daily reminders have come through the wonderfully gracious, patient, kind and loving people of Noble Avenue Baptist Church and the wonderfully gracious, patient, kind and loving people of our community. Give thanks and be on the lookout for God’s presence among us.
Rejoice! God is with us…God is with us indeed! Amen.