“. . . and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means, “God is with us.”
Scripture: Matthew 1:18-25
2020 may prove to be one of the most consequential and fateful years in modern history. As I write, over 225,000 Americans have died from COVID-19. The death count already surpasses the number of Americans who died in World War I. If projections are correct, by Christmas Eve, the amount of deaths will be very close to surpassing the number of Americans who died in World War II.
In addition to a deadly pandemic, our country has been embroiled in nationwide protests which seek to reform our legal system and confront our nation’s enduring legacies of racism. We have witnessed the harrowing video of George Floyd being choked to death by a Minnesota police officer. We have witnessed radical vigilantes take justice into their own hands and murder innocent civilians. We have watched peaceful protestors be tear gassed by the state despite its illegality in international war.
Maybe like me, you have been wondering, “Where is God?”
Matthew’s Nativity narrative reminds us that Mary gave birth to Emmanuel, which means “God with us.”
Christian faith is believing in things unseen. It is a radical hope that one day God’s justice will be the world’s justice, that the peace of Christ will pervade the immoral and unjust systems of this world. It is a belief that Jesus, despite our sinful nature, loves us and uses his mighty hand to intervene on our behalf.
Lutheran theologian Cynthia Loe-Mobeda writes, “Faith is a living, daring confidence in God’s grace, so sure and certain the believer would stake [their] life on it a thousand times.”
This year it has been hard to believe that God is with us. It has been hard to know that God’s mercy and grace still abounds.
But when we look a bit closer, I am confident that we will see the work of the Spirit, God within each of us, present in our communities. I see the work of the Spirit in Dr. Anthony Fauci who continues to communicate hard truths to the American people. I see the work of the Spirit in protestors who risked their well-being to stand up for the oppressed and the marginalized. I see the work of the Spirit in thousands of people who waited in lines for hours to vote. I see the work of the Spirit in our church as we continue to house the homeless, feed the hungry, and participate in racial reconciliation.
This Christmas let us be reminded that we believe in a God who is with us, a God who sacrificed divinity to assume the position of humanity, a God who breathes into our lives each and every day.
God is with you and God’s grace is for you. Thanks be to God!