They will call him Immanuel which means ‘God with us’ (Matthew 1:23)
Worries are being voiced over what Christmas will mean this year as families face the loss of loved ones and concerns are being raised over how Christmas can be celebrated in these circumstances. Despite the difficult circumstances we face this year, one of the key messages of Christmas remains: God is with us.
In our Christmas carol, ‘Hark the Herald Angels Sing’ we sing: ‘pleased as man with man to dwell, Jesus our Immanuel’. And it is this truth that our above Bible verse refers to, reminding us that God came to live among us in the person of Jesus and is still with us in the person of the Holy Spirit.
So no matter what the circumstances are this Christmas and indeed throughout this time of lockdown and beyond – whether we are lonely, anxious or fearful, we are not alone. God is with us and we can talk to him and share our worries & fears – that is what prayer is, simply talking to God. We don’t have to know special words or set prayers – God loves us and wants to hear what is troubling us, just as any loving parent wants to hear what is worrying their children.
And prayer does make a difference – some- times it might change a situation but even if it doesn’t (and God does not promise to take all our troubles away) we do know the promise that God will help us in our troubles and give
The strength we need to cope and have hope and joy in the midst of suffering.
An example of this is the hymn writer Joseph Scriven who wrote, ‘What a friend we have in Jesus’. It sounds a jolly tune and we may think that Scriven didn’t have a care in the world but the truth is very different. He wrote the hymn out of extreme pain – he lost two fiancées in tragic circumstances and never married as a result. He wrote to say that Jesus was with him and helped him cope through his difficulties.
One of my favourite Bible passages is Romans 8:35-39 where the apostle Paul affirms that nothing can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Like Joseph Scriven, these were not just nice words – Paul knew what it was like to suffer: he was flogged, beaten, stoned, shipwrecked, in danger at sea and in danger from many other sources; he endured long term illness, hunger and ultimately martyrdom. Yet God gave him the strength to keep going and to have joy despite his pain.
This Christmas, perhaps more than ever, can we be encouraged to try praying – and find for ourselves that God is indeed with us and that we are not alone.