Emmanuel - God With Us.
That word, those words have been echoing around my soul for a few weeks.
When they began to weave their way into my thinking they were objective. I didn’t realise that just two weeks after I started pondering them that they would become very very subjective. Now, it’s Christmas week and these words are everywhere - God with us.
It was during Catalyst Live in Reading that Sam Wells, Vicar of St Martin-in-the-Fields, opened up these words. What he said was very simple, obvious almost, and yet utterly profound but not very much evident in our living.
Sam suggested that presence might be better than fix. Indeed fix might not always be possible. When fix is not happening, presence is still there.
As his illustration Sam took us into the novel, later film, The English Patient. In the story, set in the Sahara, an affair begins between Almásy and Katherine. Katherine’s husband Geoffrey finds out and in attempted murder-suicide, deliberately crashes his plane, narrowly missing Almásy. Geoffrey is killed instantly, Katherine is seriously injured. Almásy carries her to a cave, leaving her with provisions, and begins a three-day walk to get help.
Sam asked us the question - was going for help the right decision or should he have stayed to be with his beloved Katherine in the last few days of her life? Sam then turned the question on us, the Church. Are we always so set on helping that we are not content to just be with?
Emmanuel - God with us. I preached on Sam’s thoughts the next Sunday in Fitzroy. Yet, I had no idea, that within two weeks I would actually be living in the middle of this truth.
As an only son my family was intact when Sam Wells shared his thoughts. The next week, I sat with my mum and dad at the breakfast table in the family home. Dad had been suffering from dementia for a while but Mum was holding all the seams together. Within a week all would be lost. Mum had passed away. Dad was in a care home. The house was empty. Unfixable.
God with us has become my only hope, my only comfort. It is enough. It was and is God’s missional intention. As we suffer the consequences of a fallen world, God’s love desires to hold us, embrace us as a mother would when her child falls and hurts.
Christmas morning is the grace baby arriving in the midst of whatever it is my family are struggling through, whatever it is we are all going through. It is God with us in the most intimate of ways.
God with us… It is my wish for every one of you this Christmas time.