Jan 08 newsletter

For unto you is born this day in the City of David, a Savior who is Christ the Lord. He is known as Wonderful Counselor, Almighty God, and Prince of Peace. But mostly I want to look at Christ as Emmanuel, God with us. What does it mean that God is with us and who is the “us” God is with?

When I was young I had this vision of God up in heaven. Perhaps I was a child of the times and the pictures in the Sunday School materials, but my vision was always one of a stately old man with a flowing white beard, looking down on humanity. It was not an unpleasant image for me, indeed it brought me comfort. But for the most part, God was up there and I was down here and my job was to be good enough to get up there eventually, but not too soon. This is not Emmanuel, God with us.

God with us carries a different vision. First it carries the image of God being with “me.” What that means is that I am never alone. A comforting thought in the dark and difficult times in my life, not so comforting at other times. It reminds me of a friend of mine who says that “pray unceasingly” is not a request of us to pray all the time, but rather a realization that everything we think, do, and say is a prayer. We have to ask ourselves if it is a prayer we want to really want to be praying right now. Emmanuel, means that God is always a part of everything I do, everything! That is both comforting and cleansing, and most of us don’t want to be all that cleansed most the time. When we have a time of confession during worship, or when someone comes into my office for private confession, our words and thoughts in these moments are not all God is aware of. God was right there with us when we made up all the rationalizations in our heads that was we were doing was really going to be ok. That covers the more obvious “that which we have done” part, but there is still the much larger “that which we have left undone” part to deal with. What is often left undone is our failure to take seriously the effect our lack of action has on our brothers and sisters in Christ. The trend in the world is always toward the powerful gaining more and more power and wealth, and rational is that a rising tide raises all boats. We also live in a world where half the population lives on less than $2 a day and a country where we have the largest prison population per capata in the world. Truly, there is more being left undone than there is being done wrong and the rising tide raises only those boats who are not anchored in systemic poverty.

Secondly, “God with us” carries the image of God being with “them.” God’s concept of “us” is much broader than ours. God’s concept of “us” includes you and me and those we know well. It also includes those we don’t know so well. It also includes those we don’t know at all. It also includes those we don’t want to know and it also includes those we never ever in our whole life ever want to meet. It also includes our enemies. God with us means that we can never look at another individual and not see the presence of God in their life. They may or may not acknowledge that, it matters about as much as one of your children saying they are no longer your child, you just smile and wait knowing they will come back sooner or later asking for money. Emmanuel, God with us means that how we treat others, “IS” how we treat God. We are called then to treat others, not as they would treat us, but as we would, if we think about it, treat God. They are, through Emmanuel, our brothers and sisters in God’s eyes.

In 2008, we will look into what it truly means to call Jesus, Emmanuel and how that plays out in our lives as the children of God. Come and join us. Amen


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