Category Archives: Holidays

With Us

The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel — ” God is with us.”  Isaiah 7:14b

When Isaiah penned these God-breath words, I wonder if he had any inkling what God meant by the idea of Immanuel. Did he realize that God in the flesh would leave heaven and come live among us — share our meals, walk our streets, hug our necks? Did Isaiah understand that not only would we know Christ in a new way, but God would understand us, his creations, differently?

Isaiah 53 reminds us that it was our weaknesses he carried, our sorrows that weighed him down (verse 43); he was despised and rejected, a man acquainted with sorrow and the bitterest of grief. The weaknesses, sorrows, and grief we’ve known Christ knew too.

So many times we feel alone in our pain or discouraged because of our many weaknesses. This isolation is a tool used by Satan. If he can isolate us, make us feel lonely and alone, we are more apt to give into his ways and abandon the truth we know. But the truth is this: We are KNOWN by God and he loves us in the middle of all our foibles and follies, sins and setbacks. Immanuel destroyed the lie of isolation. God is not “way out there” with little-old-me stuck here alone on this complicated and angry earth.

He came as a baby to fill our loneliness, not by just being our friend but by experiencing the same loneliness. His birthplace — a lowly manger— automatically set him up for rejection. The Jews wanted a king, a royal fanfare; yet Christ came in as quiet as a snowflake. Not what his people wanted.

Repeatedly, Christ said, “This is me, know me, know God.” Yet he was continuously rejected. We’ve done the same, offering ourselves in friendships and love saying “Here I am. Know me, see me, value me.” Yet we are rejected as well. But that same cry is answered with a resounding yes by God. He does see us! He knows us! What a glorious comfort in simply being known, and in spite of or because of that knowledge, God loves us and cares for us. He never grows weary of our weaknesses and constant mess-ups.

The simple truth of Immanuel is clear. God in flesh came to earth to be with us, to experience our joys and pain, and live an ordinary life so we could truly know Him. Even now, he is with us, even when we aren’t lovable, and because of Immanuel we are known and loved—truly the best gift we ever received.

 

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Advent: In the Waiting

As for me, I look to the Lord for His help. I wait confidently for God to save me, and my God will certainly hear me.  Micah 7:7

The birth of Christ was a whisper of God after a 400-year silence. An answered prayer the people of Israel had waited generations for God to send.

I like to consider myself a patient person. But in reality, if it is something really important — say like Christmas presents or a long-awaited vacation — I stink at waiting. I mean can’t the good stuff just get here already!

This is basically my attitude on prayer, so when I read Micah 7:7, I had to take notice. Micah speaks of waiting confidently. We’ve all waited for God to move, to answer, to speak, but many times, it feels like the 400-year silence Israel endured. I imagine many had long given up on God answering their cries for salvation. Even if they hadn’t given up, I’m sure very few were still waiting confidently for the Lord to save them.

If they were anything like me, I can tell you how they waited: fretfully, angrily, impatiently, and guiltily.

Just a few nights ago, I tossed and turned for hours before falling asleep. Not because I wasn’t tired but because I was mad. A situation I’d been praying about was not changing, not even one tiny bit. I wanted to yell at the person involved; I wanted to tell God just how I felt about having to wait. Sure, I was waiting for God to answer my prayer but I was not confident in his timeline; I was angry.

Anger isn’t my only waiting mode. I’ve been plenty fretful while waiting as well, which is actually the opposite of what Micah says. I conjure scenarios in my mind in which God comes along too late, or the answer to my prayer is incredibly painful and not at all for what I’d hoped. My stress level peaks and I lose it — and that ain’t pretty. (Just ask the ones I live with.)

On the other hand, in order to avoid the fretting, I wait impatiently, taking action in my own wisdom. I plot; I plan. I get things done. I’ll just help God with answering my prayer. Usually, all of which just make the problem bigger. Semi-confidence takes over as I try to do “my part” in helping God. (Just typing the words out makes it laughable.)

And then there’s one final way I find myself waiting on God: guiltily. That conversation is ALWAYS the same. “Alicia, you deserve his silence. The answer won’t come because of your actions, your words — because of YOU, YOU, YOU!” This no-answer is punishment, so don’t even bother asking again for God to move on your behalf. I’m sure the Israelites looked back over their many years of disobedience to God and thought the same thing. We’ve finally gone too far and He will not help us now.

That is not the God we serve. He is loving, forgiving, and faithful God and can truly be waited on in confidence. Micah knew it hundreds of years ago; we can know it now.

Confidence indicates a faith or belief that one will act in a right, proper, or effective way. It speaks of a relationship of trust and intimacy. Every time my prayers have been answered, they have been in the manner that deserves confidence in the one who works on my behalf. His love for me and care for every detail in my life should strengthen the trust I have for Him.

The end of the verse speaks of certainty that not only does God hear me but he WILL save me. As my confidence grows, so should my faith.

God hadn’t forgotten in those silent 400 years. He was only preparing the most perfect gift as the response to the Israelites cries. And in the seemingly silent moments between prayer and answer in our lives today, He is doing the same.