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Magazine > Content

Immanuel

The mystery of the incarnation holds our greatest hope: God is with us.

By Erin Gieschen

 

Unless you haven’t lived very long, chances are you can easily recall at least one lonely Christmas. Whether you were by yourself or surrounded by people, it’s likely that your loneliness was sharpened by the thought that you’re supposed to be joyful at Christmas. After all, isn’t it a celebration of life and love and hope? Isn’t it about “Joy to the world, the Lord is come”?

It is. But it’s also about that joy mysteriously converging with profound aloneness, transforming it into a completely new reality.

Some of us know the story so well that we no longer feel its tension and humanness as we read or hear it for the hundredth time. By default, our imaginations easily turn to sentimentalized commercial images. But to truly understand what Christmas means for our present-day experience, it’s crucial to recognize that Jesus was born into a very real human existence.

These were people who lived in oppressive times, struggled to make ends meet, and made decisions that would cost them their reputations and dreams for the future. Mary and Joseph’s experiences of human loneliness nearly jump from the page once we put ourselves in their shoes. And the joy that propelled them onward was made stronger and truer by their hardships.

The famous words of the Magnificat, Mary’s psalm of praise in Luke 1:46-55 (NKJV), simply can’t be divorced from their original setting. “My soul magnifies the Lord,” she sang, “and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant . . . henceforth all generations will call me blessed.” This young woman’s hopes for the future had been thrown into upheaval, yet she offered praise in the midst of her unknowing. At the time, she was pregnant, not yet married, and alone. No one could share her weighty calling—no one could give birth to the incarnate Messiah for her. But joy came from that wondrous presence within her, even as she knew she would soon be deeply misunderstood and most likely shunned.

The beauty of Mary’s worship at this point in her story is unique, yet it has much in common with the wider stream of prayers and hymns flowing through Scripture. So many of the biblical songs extolling God’s greatness were originally composed in a context of both outer and inner struggle. Isn’t this the very thing that so often sharpens our vision of His glory? Suffering may not cease after the last word of the psalm is uttered, but no longer is it merely pain. Anyone in this world can experience joy in obviously beautiful moments. But the mystery of our salvation becomes clear when, in the midst of darkness, worship utterly captivates us.

This is why, when telling the Christmas story, we should never shy away from its bittersweet context. It’s always been an intermingling of pain and joy, aloneness met by Presence. Yet we know, even as children, that the story is ultimately glorious and full of wonder. We know deep down that this convergence of struggle and miracle, of darkness andlight, alchemizes into something so much greater—a paradoxical beauty that pervades the greatest of stories. And how could it not? Jesus’ birth is the turning point of history, when the loneliness of exiled mankind is met in the most intimate of ways: God becomes one of us.

There’s something far beyond human comfort we can draw from the knowledge that Jesus is Immanuel, God with us. There is life-giving courage. His presence tells us that loneliness isn’t the whole of our story. It tells us that there’s so much more than what we initially see—that reality goes deeper than the surface of pain or even momentary happiness.

Christ has come to us right where we are, just as we are. He enters into our loss, comes to share our sorrows and infuse them with His healing presence.

He is with us.

And truly knowing that He’s come to make His home in us—and invites us to make our home in Him—changes everything. The lonely space our heart currently navigates may not change, but the substance of our journey through it can be transformed.

The true beauty of Christmas never fades and never loses its power. The great Light came quietly into the world to redeem it and has never stopped shining. Even now, His presence surrounds you, waiting to break through any shade of darkness to reveal itself as the truer, deeper reality of your life. So wherever you are, no matter how alone you may feel right now, make room for the Light to come. Because this is why He came—to be with you.

Copyright 2014 In Touch Ministries, Inc. All rights reserved. www.intouch.org. In Touch grants permission to print for personal use only.


10 comments
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  • December 09, 2012 12:26 PM

    by

    God is good God won't lead me wrong what I hear and read about the lord our Savior is already how I feel. Its reel so good to know I am right in how I feel God wants us to be. Giving my life and glory to God I am never alone even when it feels hat way I know better. And that gives me strength.
  • December 03, 2012 06:18 PM

    by

    To,GOD BE THE GLORY AND THE PRAISE I WILL PRAISE HIM JESUS MY EVERYTHING IAM NEVER ALONE I THANK GOD FOR JESUS.AMEN
  • December 29, 2011 10:48 AM

    by

    Beautiful story of Christ, and I never feel alone, because I know God is with me through all of my up and downs, and he will never forsake me. Jesus is the reason for the season:)
  • December 14, 2011 01:59 PM

    by

    I have never read any of the articles from the magazine until today. I do follow the radio show and bible studies. I know that God is constantly with us and guiding us if we will just listen and submit. Which is way harder to do then say. It is even harder to have complete faith in something we cannot see or touch but only feel. So living by faith and not sight is no easy task. Right now I'm going through a time of loneliness due to an upcoming event that is uncertain. I know the Lord knows how it will turn out but I don't and that makes it hard. Sometimes the way I feel or what I see tends to mislead me but I just believe at the end of the day that God is working for His greater glory and my best interest. I thank the Lord that He is faithful and it is His power and plan I can rely on. So Lord I ask you today that you allow me to stand firm in your presence. To God be the glory and power! Amen!
  • December 07, 2011 11:40 PM

    by

    tonight I feel very alone, I thank you for your words and am reminded that even now God is with me!
  • December 07, 2011 11:12 PM

    by

    God is the reason for this season
  • December 07, 2011 11:10 PM

    by

    Jesus takes you on a journey of his life good times and bad times of rejectiof on pain sorrow and being denied we as humans face all these similarities but by grace we are saved Jesus has promised never to leave or forsake us turn to him for all your needs and he answers with love and kindness Merry Christmas to all
  • December 06, 2011 06:07 PM

    by

    I live alone, but I am not alone. This so comforting. To know He is with me.



  • December 05, 2011 01:31 PM

    by

    This was so awesome and so timely! In a day in which your business colleagues, friends and family alike, and sometimes even church members "throw you under the bus to save themselves", the story of the hardship and loneliness that Joseph and Mary went through in allowing God to bring forth the Savior through them rings true, and I'm grateful. I'm so grateful for Jesus in my heart and for the reminder that on the day I repented of my sin and asked Him to come into my heart, He took up His abode in me and has been there ever since, so I never have to be alone. He understands and is there for me, no matter what - truly A Friend who sticks closer than a brother, and I love Him more than anything in this world. Lord, at this moment, here my prayer and continuously make me like You, so that the world won't be able to tell the difference between You and me - they'll just see You and be drawn to You. Thank You, dear Jesus, that You will never leave me, nor forsake me, and that in every situation, happy or sad, tragic or lighthearted, You are my constant Companion, as well as Lord of my life and my Savior. I am never alone and will never be again and I'm thankful for Immanuel - God with us.
  • December 02, 2011 08:15 AM

    by

    How truely awesome to have someone love us wretched sinners so much to offer Himself in this way! How selfless,humble,amazing,courageous, and heroic!! :)

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