Matthew 1:18-20a,24 – This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife." When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. (NIV)
It had been a long day. It commenced at 3:30 a.m. when I was called into the jail and was just ending now at 5:30 p.m. Ending was not exactly the right word, however, as my daughter had taken over at the detention centre as I left, which meant that I still had all the evening barnyard and house chores to do on my own.
I had finished feeding the dogs, collecting, washing, and depositing the eggs in the fridge, and forking hay to livestock. Now I was standing in the dusky, drizzling wet. Weary and worn, feeling every one of my sixty-two-plus years, and very much alone, I was waiting for the water trough to top up, when something unexpected occurred. A warm, soft head nudged under my hand as brown eyes looked up into mine. Denby, my collie, sensing my discouragement and frustration, had come alongside to offer his support. With this loving gesture also came the dawning of renewed truth. Just as Denby stood so faithfully beside me, so did God's ever-present Spirit. I was not alone. God understood my situation and would continue to supply all I needed to accomplish the tasks at hand, just as He always had in the past. With this dawning, the warmth and invigorating power of His inner peace quickly routed all feelings of frustration and weariness of heart.
Many years ago, the earthly father of Jesus must also have felt deeply discouraged, frustrated, weary, and very much alone, as he wondered what to do when he discovered that his beloved Mary was pregnant with another's child. God's reminder to him that he was not alone came through the guise of a dream. As Joseph slept, God's presence came alongside, revealing the right pathway for him to follow and filling his heart with invigorating power and peace to obey.
Emmanuel, God with us, was the child whom Joseph was called to care for as his own. Jesus Christ, God incarnate, had come to earth that man might never again be alone, separated from God.
This Christmas season, some of us may be in the midst of feeling discouraged, weary, frustrated, and very much alone, but this need not be so. Emmanuel — God with us — is right where we are, whatever we may be doing, however we may be feeling. Within this precious truth lies the dawning of invigorating power and everlasting peace within, if only we will reach out in faith and embrace Him — Emmanuel, God with us.
Prayer: Father God, thank You that through Your Holy Spirit, the living Christ is always near, ready and waiting to bestow His power and the peace that passes understanding upon us, for the asking. Grant us faith to ask now. In Christ's name, we pray. Amen.