Create by: Hungsu Lim December 11, 2015 at 5:59 pm
[Advent Devotion] Day 11 “God With Us” Always
“The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”). (Matthew 1:23 NIV)
God came to humanity through Jesus of Nazareth. It’s quite shocking, really. The Hebrew people were expecting a powerful Messiah who would restore the kingdom of Israel, but Jesus ushered in a different kind of kingdom—one not built upon power, prestige, and possession but upon powerless love. It was surprising and shocking—not at all what they expected.
If we’re honest, we’re often surprised and shocked by the way that Jesus comes to us too. He can be hidden in plain sight, showing up in ways we never anticipated. Just when circumstances appear to be at their bleakest, Jesus reveals himself and gives us new life. That’s the way it was for me.
I have always believed in God, but my circumstances and environment when I was growing up were catalysts for shaping the notion that God was indifferent. I saw God as the Creator who sat back and watched but didn’t intervene. I also had serious doubts about Christianity’s claims in regard to Jesus—that he was “God with us” sent to redeem, sustain, and make everything new.
Throughout my childhood, teenage years, and young adulthood, there were a variety of factors that shaped my intense faith struggle, but there were two major life events that set a cast around my heart that would be hard to break. The first is one of my earliest and most vivid childhood memories. At just over three years old, I was informed that my biological father was leaving our family. He bent down to tell me goodbye with tears in his eyes, and then he walked out the door. I remember seeing my mother’s sad but stoic expression as she stood motionless next to the front door with her arms rigidly crossed. When the door closed, the abandonment reverberated in my soul.
The second event occurred when I was almost ten years old and my grandparents moved away to Florida. They were the ones who had rooted me in love and faith (which would enable me to return to the faith many years later). Each week until I was nine they had taken me to Sunday Mass and Wednesday programming at the Catholic church. They were a stabilizing and loving force in my chaotic home life. I anticipated our weekends together and our routine of Friday spaghetti dinners with ice cream, fun-filled Saturday activities, and Sunday Mass. So on that crisp day in October as I watched the back of the U-Haul fade into the distance, any hope in a loving God vanished. It was an image that would solidify my understandable but erroneous perception that God is not with us.
These two early life events watered seeds of doubt regarding a loving, relational God. My intense feelings of disconnection led to drug and alcohol addiction. Life was filled with emptiness, ruin, and devastating consequences.
But one day God’s searching love shattered my Jesus paradigm. Being part of the fellowship of a twelve-step recovery group, recommitting my life to following Jesus in community, and gaining a new perspective on those life-altering events gave me new life. I discovered that God had never abandoned me. In fact, I now could see all the points along the way where Jesus had been with me, including when my father and grandparents left. No longer was I a victim of my past hurts and transgressions. As I grew in community, God’s grace reclaimed and reshaped my perception, understanding, and experience of Jesus. I came to see and believe that Jesus was, indeed, “God with us.”
Is Jesus hidden in plain sight in your life? Ask him to open your eyes so that you may see and believe he is “God with us”—always.
PRAYER: God of love, I give thanks that you are a God of presence. Give me eyes to see that you are hidden in plain sight—in my past, present, and future. May I continue to grow in the knowledge and love of Jesus Christ—God with us, now and forever. Amen.
(from “SENT: Devotion” Week 3 – Jesus is God with Us by Justin LaRosa)
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