Story, Value, and Becoming More Real
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Emmanuel – Celebrating His Presence

December 6, 2023

Mary Miller

As I enter Christmas, I can focus on the chaos around the world, or I can meditate on Emmanuel.

“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call His name Immanuel.” [1]

In his gospel, Matthew recalls Isaiah’s prophecy as he tells the story of Christ, “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which means God with us. [2] In recounting the advent of Christ, we often dwell on the immaculate conception more than the name given to Mary’s son, Jesus, “God with us.” I can meditate on this for days. I propose, “Is anything impossible when God is with us?” Additionally, I echo Paul’s declaration “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” [3] We are invincible in Christ. 

All glory to God—these declarations in scripture give me the opportunity to celebrate with confidence and exercise the authority I have in Christ. I do not have to bow to a statue multiple times a day in obeisance. I do not have to perform heroic feats of self-sacrifice. I don’t have to beg for mercy. It has already been provided. God is with me. He is with you.

As I ponder the soon-upon-me Christmas 2023 season, I meditate on Emmanuel. My house is already fragrant with the aroma of baked goods, our traditional Norwegian Julekake, persimmon cookies, and gingerbread. After Thanksgiving has been given, our tree will be cut and harvested from a local forest and adorned with twinkly champagne lights and memorable family ornaments. One by one, carefully chosen gifts will accrue under the spreading branches–gifts for and from family and dear friends plus additional gifts for people we just want to bless as we have been blessed.

I cherish Christmas carols and joyfully sing in memory of the angels who announced the birth of Yeshua. “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” [4] Then Israel sang this song: “Spring up, O well, sing to it!” [5] In my caroling, in the worship, the well is renewed and filled.

I celebrate all glory given to God in the humble awe of the shepherds who were led to the manger by the angelic host. “And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.” [6] I rejoice with Simeon who had long anticipated the Messiah. “For my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.” [7] My attention is drawn to light and glory.

As I enter the Christmas season, I can focus on the chaos around the world, wars and rumors of war, political antinomy, crumbling culture, and utter depravity. I can be burdened by the repetition of decorating once again, gifts of obligation, the anxiety of buying gifts, endless activity, and necessary events. Or I can direct my attention to Emmanuel. Paul wrote, 

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” [8]

We are victorious because of God’s great love. The victory has already been won. As I pray, I praise and worship, rejoicing for the completed victory in Christ. I may not see the fruit yet, but it will manifest, just as I plant rows of seeds in the tilled garden soil each spring and expect a harvest. “No, in all these things we have complete victory through him who loved us!” [9] I allow my heart to entertain the miraculous. If Elohim can create Jesus from a virgin, nothing is impossible. I sing. I celebrate. I declare. I expect!!

 I am looking for miracles and choosing to put presence ahead of agendas. 

We are transformed in the presence of the King. I am choosing to cultivate. Just like gardening where I select seeds, prepare beds, sow, water, and tend, I cultivate my spirit and flesh with decorations, gifts, meals, but most significantly, I prepare my heart to worship and celebrate. I rejoice over the miracle, that Jesus Christ would humble Himself, live among humanity as a man so that He could be in touch with the feelings of my weakness, and ultimately die for my freedom. He is worthy of it all.

 Come let us worship the King!

[1] Isaiah 7:14, ESV.

[2] Matthew 1:23.

[3] Philippians 4:13.

[4] Luke 2:14.

[5] Num 21:17.

[6] Luke 2:20.

[7] Luke 2:30-32.

[8] Philippians 4:8.

[9] Romans 8:37.

The featured image is courtesy of Julie Jablonski and is used with her kind permission for Cultivating.

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