Emmanuel: God with us.
Have you ever wondered what the world was like two millennia ago when the Holy Child was born in Bethlehem? Imagine a people oppressed by an earthly power, humbly traveling to obey the census rule. Imagine a people living in fear of the hand of authority. Imagine a people living in poverty and uncertainty. Imagine a world of “us” and “them.”
Fast forward to 2016. We can’t quite put a finger on the edginess that pervades the air. Anxiety and, yes, fear lurk in the darkness in anticipation of an uncertain future. We witness incidents, large and small, of misunderstanding and hate expressing themselves in vicious acts of violence. It seems respect and honor for the “other” have all but disappeared. We despair and wonder where hope has gone. Has anything changed?
We are aware of various armed conflicts and civil wars around the globe; thanks to the instantaneous nature of media, we are repeatedly bombarded with news, however slanted. Opinion appears to triumph over truth as commentators battle and rattle. No one is listening. National news is repetitively spun one way and another – and we can’t help but know how many days remain until Inauguration Day on January 20. Even local news sometimes seems to seek what is sensational. And we catch it among ourselves in social media and gossip, reading—and sometimes participating in—hurtful conversation (not always intended).
From our little place on the planet, how do we begin to combat the evil that resides within and among humankind? Daunting? Discouraging? Disheartening?
In a fleeting moment, we fly through the Christmas we have planned and worked for, dreaming of perfect time with family and loved ones. Gifts are opened, hugs are exchanged, and meals are consumed. What then? The world seems unchanged.
Deep within, we know that the before and after of Emmanuel–“God with us”–are distinct. New and unending possibility is revealed as God enters the world of humanity. Though seemingly masked and hidden, hope breathes within and among us.
What does hope say to the pervading edginess? Trust. Love God, neighbor, and self.
How are hope and trust expressed?
- Take a media break. Engage in real, live conversation – and expect to be surprised what you learn about your neighbor.
- Catch someone doing something good, and tell them! Children and adults alike hunger for affirmation.
- Be unafraid to take the risk to do a random act of kindness, with no thought of what’s in it for you.
Christmas highlights the belief that God is in all of us. We can ignore that, or we can help God be found in all of us. God is active through each of us for each other.
from Sacred Space: The Prayer Book 2012, The Irish Jesuits