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“Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Listen carefully, the virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and she will call his name Immanuel (God with us).” Isaiah 7:14 (AMP)
My text app lit up with messages from all the moms in my teenage daughter’s group of friends from school. Each woman asking for prayers for various families who are going through the hardest valleys this Holiday season…
A pastor who lost his wife last Saturday after complications from surgery.
A musician from one of my friend’s church who found his daughter dead at home last week.
A dear friend who is caring for a husband who is languishing away with Alzheimer’s.
And it didn’t end there… I had my own prayer requests to add to our group’s prayer list:
My sweet neighbor who is burying her husband four days before Christmas, after an 18-month battle with cancer.
One of my best friend’s long-time friend who lost his 35 year-old wife unexpectedly last week.
A friend’s brother who lost his wife and daughter in a tragic car accident on Thanksgiving week.
Faithful Christians who are going through unemployment… cancer… Moms whose hearts are broken because of prodigal sons and daughters, who chose to walk away from the Lord.
Praying for these souls is heartbreaking and overwhelming. I feel helpless, puzzled, and so very sad.
As I was thinking about each of these prayer requests, my heart filled with gratitude for things that we normally take for granted: good health, a strong marriage, a roof over my head, children who love Jesus, food to eat every day, and the fact that, regardless of what is under the tree, we are all together.
That is the greatest gift to me this particular Christmas.
While praying about each one of these situations, Isaiah’s words came to my mind. I realized each one of these families had one thing in common, beyond their shared crisis this Christmas:
They know the Baby of Christmas.
They have Immanuel – God with Them.
From what I understand, the ones who died are all in Heaven. And those who stay, have Heaven with them.
And, although amid their agony they cannot feel His presence, still, He is there.
God IS with each of them.
I know that, because one of His most repeated promises throughout Scriptures is “I’ll never leave you, nor forsake you.”
That’s the Immanuel promise.
When Isaiah prophesied the coming Messiah about 700 years before Jesus’ birth, God inspired Him with a Name that would become the answer, the only breath of fresh air during each hot valley we cross in life:
The promise that the Baby would become the Bridge that would cross the chasm between us and the Father… that He would die for our sins and resurrect from the dead… that He would ascend and send His Holy Spirit to dwell in all who called upon His Name, repented of their sins to be born again… (John 3:3)
That He would then become Immanuel, God with us, forever… and through it all. Not only at Christmas, but from January 1st through December 31st, every year, until the Father calls us home.
The One who understands your pain.
The True Gift of Christmas.
I have never had the disheartening experience of going through a major loss or crisis right before Christmas. I cannot imagine the pain, which has got to be intensified, because Christmas is naturally a time to celebrate, give and receive Joy.
It simply doesn’t go together, does it? Christmas and Pain… Christmas and Loss… Christmas and hopelessness.
It’s an impossible equation!
And yet so real to so many of you today.
But I would like to invite you to meditate upon this truth today, and share it with those you love who are going through a crisis this Holiday Season:
That God’s promises never fail.
And if He said He would be Immanuel, Immanuel He is!
That regardless of how dark your circumstances are this Christmas, this Truth forever remains:
He is with us, FOREVER with us!
And even though you may not feel His loving hand…
Even though the darkness around you hides the Light of His glory…
Even though there may not be Joy in your heart today…
You can trust this truth:
Christmas – the Baby in the manger, the resurrected Lord, Immanuel … will walk you through the valley.
His hands will never slip away.
His ironclad grip will never let you go.
Though darkness may surround you, His light shall pierce through… if not today, tomorrow. If not tomorrow, some day…
Grab a hold of this truth, tired soul:
Christmas is more than outward Joy. It’s having the Peace that surpasses all understanding.The gift of knowing that the One who spoke the stars into existence knows your name… knows your plight… and will work it all together for your good, and His glory (Romans 8:28).
If there can’t be Joy, let there be Peace in your heart this Christmas… the peace of knowing that God is with you, personally, unconditionally… even in the darkest day.