I used to really hate this time of year. Not Christmas so much as the end of the year. My first career was in sales at a huge technology company, and the end of the year was the time when all our sales quotas were up. My entire department was scrambling to meet our goals and keep our jobs. I could barely carve out space in my life to relax, let alone celebrate. And as for growing spiritually during Advent? Forget it.
If I could send any message back in time to myself, it would be this: God is with you. God is with you now, in the middle of these stressful phone calls. God is with you now, as you deal with angry and frustrated people. God is with you now when all you want to do is run and hide from this place.
In Matthew 1:23, a angel of the Lord visits Jesus’ father Joseph and tells him what is going to happen. He references the prophecies of Isaiah, who claims that a virgin will give birth to a son, and he will be called Emmanuel, which means “God with us.” Emmanuel isn’t a name or a title here, it’s a description. “That’s what the birth of this child will teach you all,” the angel could have said. “That God is with you, now and forever.”
Jesus’ birth shows us that God is with us everywhere. God is with the poor and lost in faraway towns. God is with the young and ill-prepared, with the scared, the scandalized, and the confused. God is with them and God is with us, then and now, once and forever.
The knowledge that God was truly and deeply present in my life would have changed everything for me on those dark and stressful work days. I couldn’t be limited by my job performance. I was a child of God no matter where my feet took me. Emmanuel gives perspective, opens our eyes to what we so easily forget. Our lives are much more than these jobs, than these deadlines, than these issues or obstacles.
God is with me. God is with us.