This Christmas song has been on repeat for me over the last two years. Christmas is a time that comes with so much fun and excitement. I have always loved the season and have so enjoyed making memories with my children each year. Baking cookies, going to Christmas parades, and watching all the Home Alone movies are just a few of our favorite things to do. However, as much fun and happiness I can attempt to muster up during the holiday season it will certainly fall short if I don’t land on true hope and true joy. I find that suffering will always win out against a perfectly decorated Christmas tree, however it doesn’t stand a chance to the truth of Emmanuel- God with us. Creator God coming down to dwell among us and bring peace to our weary world is what our hearts are longing to find rest in. The nativity story isn’t just another tradition of the Christmas season, it IS everything to those who are hurting and in despair.
I grew up in the church, went to Christian school and hold a biblical studies associates degree. I have studied theology and doctrines much of my life. 10 years ago, I could debate and argue over many topics. However, once true suffering came into my life and my faith was put to the test, my faith evolved, deconstructed and transformed in so many ways. Nowadays, there are few hills that I would die on. However, if there is anything that I would hold most tightly to it would be the truth of Jesus, being our Emmanuel- God with us.
I have experienced great heartbreak and sorrow over the years. There have been times when the darkness felt so incredibly strong that I couldn’t breathe or find a way out. What has been my steady, my constant, and place where I always land is knowing that God truly doesn’t leave me alone in the darkness, but comes into it and dwells with me. Jesus was called a man of sorrows and experienced the depth of human emotions and experiences while he walked this earth. He understands pain and injustice more than anyone.
A few weeks before Christmas in 2014, I got on a stage and spoke for the first time about how God had been with me every second of a brutal assault. The theme of the sermon series was “Emmanuel- God With Us”. However as I began to speak I was overcome with emotions and could barely speak through the tears. The service was put on pause and leaders and members of the congregation laid hands on me and prayed for the Holy Spirit to calm my anxious heart. I was able to continue on and testify that even on my darkest day, I knew the presence of Jesus was real and he had not abandoned me.
On Christmas Day 2016, I posted on social media a picture of me and my two babies claiming that I was holding on to Emmanuel even though there wasn’t much light to see that year. There I was, alone with two children to raise and my entire future upended and thrown on it’s head. Would God truly be with me as I began this new chapter of my life that I had never wanted or asked for?
Well here I am 5 years later, and I am a bit more bruised, scarred and worn, yet the truth of God with us hasn’t shifted. I have spent many a lonely night crying out to the Lord. He continues to meet me and show Himself near. He meets me through scriptures that declare his everlasting love and presence over me. He meets me through the love of His people, who faithfully show their kindness to me and let me know I am cared for. He meets me through the peace of the Spirit in my life despite the chaos that threatens to overwhelm. He meets me through miraculous provision that doesn’t even make sense. He meets me through healing over my children. He meets me by pouring out wisdom to me right when I need it. He meets me by bestowing gifts upon me that bring purpose and meaning into my life.
Jesus being Emmanuel to me is so deeply personal, yet it is something I continually need to be reminded of. I have spent many years believing this over my life and praying for it to sink in but that doesn’t mean I lose sight of it sometimes. In fact, just last night I needed to believe it for my own child when his pain was so deep. I could feel the spirit nudging me, asking me to believe for him just as much as I believe it for myself.
I just recently got the Star of Bethlehem tattoo as a way to daily remind myself of the Christmas story no matter the time of year. This star on my arm means so much than what it appears. It will forever be a reminder of how God chose to be with me and that he has never left me alone. In the Christmas story, the star guided the wise men exactly to where they needed to go to meet their savior and worship Him. This star represented years of waiting for God to rescue his people. This star shows us the grand gesture that God did to show the extent of his great love. He delivered on all of his promises. So the next time, I am lonely or feeling the weight of the brokenness of my story, I’ll look to the star of Bethlehem and remember that God sent us a sign to point us towards him.
“Emmanuel, glory in the highest
Emmanuel, heaven here beside us
God Himself, with us now to dwell
Emmanuel!” ( Emmanuel- Glory in the Highest by Sovereign Grace Music.)