December 23: O Emmanuel (O With Us is God)

“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Emmanuel.”  Isaiah 7:14

emmanuelGod is with us. Tomorrow is Christmas Eve and many of us will gather to celebrate the birth of a child who changes the world and transforms human hearts. Looking at a tranquil nativity it might be easy to imagine that falling in love with God is something which is going to be quiet and reassuring. The baby is sleeping. Mary and Joseph gaze on with serene faces.

I have yet to see a Nativity where Jesus is crying and Mary is just plain exhausted and Joseph is wondering what on earth he has got himself into. Yet through all that chaos and confusion emerges a family who love each other. That love is based on more than a vague promise of ease. It is based on relationships which grow and change. Relationships of care, concern and, sometimes, frustration. It is based on conversations around meals and whilst Jesus plays and then learns his trade. It is based on wonder, as Mary watches this child grow into a man with unspeakable wisdom.

Falling in love with God, then, is not about a glance at a Christmas card. If we expect our faith to be a magic elixir, we will be sorely disappointed and often we will turn that disappointment on ourselves and think we have failed.

Falling in love with God becomes an all in, everything we are experience, if we allow it to. But, sometimes, the baby cries. Sometimes we think we are too tired to walk another step. Sometimes we are just downright confused. Through all of that, God holds us and calls us back to Godself as beloved children. God calls us back as the one who has first loved us, and asks us to begin again and again to grow to love God.

God be in my head, and in my understanding. God be in my eyes and in my looking. God be in my in my mouth and in my speaking, God be in my heart and in my thinking. God be at mine end, and at my departing. (St Richard of Chichester)