‘Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel’, which means, ‘God is with us.’ (Matthew 1:23)
More than for any other reason, we read the Bible to understand that we are alone. We read this book, cherished and handed down to us over the centuries, to hear the words and stories of a God who loves us so very much and comes to be with us.
There was a time when we could not get to God, when we were forever isolated and alone, and that time is gone. When we could not get to God, God came to us. That is not just true today, that is true every day.
Growing up in church my choir director used to joke about the “C&E Christians,” those people who only came to church on Christmas and Easter. Because Church is not just a place, and Christmas is not just a day. Emmanuel, God is with us, is with us everyday and always. Everyday of our lives is a day spend kneeling in the straw of the manger, and everyday is a day spent standing before the cross. God’s enduring presence is always with us.
Out in the desert today will be a long and hard day. The prison visiting room will be crowded, and there will be long lines for the phones. Church will be full tonight, and men will show up that we haven’t seen since Easter. (We have our “C&E Christians” in here as well.) In the midst of our longing and loneliness we will celebrate and find joy. We will find comfort and community. We will be able to do this because of Emmanuel. Because God is with us even in here.
We are not alone, and it is Christmas.
That is what Christmas is.
O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie! Above thy deep and dreamless sleep the silent stars go by; yet in thy dark street shineth the everlasting light; the hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight. We hear the Christmas angels the great glad tidings tell; O come to us, abide in us, our Lord Emmanuel! (Hymn 78)