If I were to be really honest, for much of my life, the concept of God's immanent presence has seemed anything but accurate. Yesterday a crazed gunman slaughtered 28 innocent people, most of whom were in kindergarten. Kindergarten!! I have a daughter in Kindergarten right now, and if she were riddled with bullets, my ability to speak of God in these terms would be suspended (or expelled).
Much of the language permeating social network revolves around the mysterious work of God in the orchestration of evil. Quoting warm, fuzzy verses seems to numb the pain and the conscience ~ because we have no ownership of such atrocity. "Let's blame this on God!"
Christmas is the intersection of hurt and hope, a collision of transcendence and immanence. The unknowable cosmic clock-maker has now "taken on flesh, and moved into the neighborhood".
Before there was ever reality television shows like "Undercover Boss" or "Secret Millionaire", there was a baby in a manger struggling to operate never before used lungs...
We lost 20 + kids yesterday. Another 20+ were stabbed with a knife in China on the same day (but we don't feel as much rage about that. After all, their government murders their own daughters when it is determined to be a female in the womb, what can we expect?) In Portland, Oregon a few days ago a psychotic killer snapped and went on a killing spree at the mall, as people were Christmas shopping. In Aurora, Colorado an angst-filled teen opened fire in a movie theater...
But in Judea, two thousand years ago, King Herod ordered the calculated slaughter of every male child under the age of two years old. And Immanuel was born into a furnace of murder, (contrary to our cute Christmas nativity scenes with congregations singing, "But little Lord Jesus, no crying he makes..."
Really? No crying?
The heart of God rages and weeps as he watches project X erupt into an inferno of anarchy. He left behind a beautiful creation, and the party got out of control. He returns to find all hell exploding in His garden of Shalom... but Immanuel has come home, now.
The very name given to this Messiah Hope is "Immanuel" which literally translates: God is here with us. A broken-hearted God has sent His Son on a rescue mission to recapitulate the Story that is still being written. The last chapter is a further proclamation of immanent grace. "And now, the dwelling place of God is with man." And He will wipe away every tear. No more crying. No more death. No more divorce. No more abortions. No more school shootings. No more blaming God for His absence...
___________ He says:_____________
I will be with you when you take your first breaths and your first steps and your first communion.
I will be with you when you learn to ride a bicycle for the first time without training wheels. And when you fall, I will be with you when you scrape your knees.
I will be with you when you submit your application and get rejected (yes I know the feeling!).
I will be with you when love breaks your heart and walks away.
I will be with you when your mom dies unexpectedly and your world caves in.
I will be with you on the day you give birth to your children,
and I will be with you when you see them leave for college.
I will be with you in the good times and the bad.
I will be with you on the mountain and in the valley. I will be with you in the hottest of summers and the coldest of winters.
I will be with you in an otherwise lonely bed, to comfort you in the midnight hour.
I will be with you when the world is cruel, and the rocks are thrown and you find yourself in the basement of the Muskegon County Jail, I will be with you at three o'clock in the morning as the rest of the world is sleeping and you’re contemplating suicide. I will be the eraser to the plans you’ve written in pencil.
I will be with you when your car breaks down in South Carolina and you have nobody to call and no money and no cell phone service and you hear banjo music.
I will be with you in the laughter of your children and the howling of autumn wind. I will be with you in the silence of September and the violence of December.
I will be with you when you feel a thousand miles lonely and you wonder if you’ll ever find or be found, in love.
Pull up a chair, and welcome to the Table. You’ll never be alone again.