What’s left when Christmas leaves?
“The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel
(which means ‘God with us).” Matthew 1:23
Many of us celebrate Christmas with traditions. Others by choice or not, experience variety from year to year.
A tradition in my home for the past twelve years has been the unwrapping of two manger scenes. One is ceramic, handmade forty-five years ago. It is a "look only" kind of decoration.
The other is also a manger scene – just a dozen years old. I purchased this one shortly after I became a Grandma, wanting my grandson to touch and feel and play with these characters sitting on the coffee table, just his height.
This year, now five grandchildren later, I saw a different kind of touching of the shepherds bearing gifts. Six-year-old Te’a spent the night with me and chose to sleep near the lighted Christmas tree with the manger at her head.
With Christmas over and decoration take-down underway, I discovered she had done some rearranging. The wise men who once faced out, welcoming others to approach Jesus, now stood with backs turned.
They faced Jesus, the One they had come to worship with their gifts – with their hearts. Jesus, Immanuel, indeed, now WITH us.
Jesus is with ME
I once met a fragile young girl, about the same age as my granddaughter, who listened quietly in a classroom setting as others discussed what the word “Immanuel” meant. After waiting patiently through several answers ranging from “Santa Claus” to “shepherds,” she jumped to her feet and with one hand on her heart and the other pointed to the heavens, she spoke it out with all the vibrato she could muster, “Jesus Is With ME!”
Ah, the lessons we can learn from children. From one – Jesus is worthy of our face-to-face worship. From the other – the WITH of God is personal, worth embracing to the core of our beings.
How had this little, fragile one learned the intimacy of God? Her low weight and thin skin spoke of illness, perhaps much of her life spent fighting for life. She knew more than worship; she also knew love.
Somewhere along the way, she came to understand that not only was God near but that His nearness was her comfort, her hope. I wonder if a parent shared Zechariah 3:17 with her:
‘The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in His love He will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.”
Because there can be a nearness, a “with” that brings fear or frustration or pain or anger. Perhaps there is a person in your life you wish would take a step away instead of closer. Hopefully, that is not your view of God. He wants to be near us because in His love He delights in us. In fact, He’s so delighted with His children that He bursts into song in our presence.
With Christmas decorations taken down, I pray I won’t take one single step away from the manger, from Immanuel. In fact, I want 2018 to be marked by my constant movement closer.
I recently came across a quote and a simple prayer I’d found two years ago:
"Lord, please keep me from being too easily satisfied. May I not stop my daily search until I have touched Your garment.
“For it is not mere words that nourish the soul, but God Himself, and unless and until the hearers find God in personal experience they are not the better for having heard the truth. The Bible is not an end in itself, but a means to bring (people) to an intimate and satisfying knowledge of God that they may enter into Him, that they may delight in His presence, may taste and know the inner sweetness of the very God Himself in the core and center of their hearers.”
- The Pursuit of God, AW Tozer
Do you want to take a step closer to Jesus this year – so close that you can hear His singing over you? I invite you to accept Jesus’s invitation to come away.
Join me for a weekend retreat at the beach, linger long and quiet, uninterrupted, until you hear His song for you.
It’s a challenge – leaving the demands and noise to step into a weekend of rest. That’s why I named the retreat, “Dare to Be Still.”
Five retreats are planned for February through June. Please click on Retreats to slip over and check them out. Then step right up to the manger and worship Immanuel, the One who is WITH you.
Is this the year you accept His invitation?