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Emmanuel: Today a Light Has Come

Into the quiet and restless darkness, today a light has come.

 

Many of our great Christmas hymns have tried to capture that night many years ago, where the great power of the universe met us in the tender innocence of a child born among animals and starlight. 

 

In the Bleak Midwinter, Silent Night, It came upon a midnight clear, O Holy Night. 

 

Somehow there is resonance of celebrating today where the hustle and energy that would normally fill this beautiful building, comes from a service in a Cavernous Cathedral to a video camera.

 

The nature of joy as we experience it in our lives on earth, is not the definition of being happy all the time. Joy comes in knowing that hope is with us always, celebration comes with gratitude and our value is recognized and appreciated by others.

 

One of the great experiences we have on this day is that amongst the most complex wonder that we can contemplate: the incarnation, the idea that the God who created the world came to us, took on human flesh and lived among us; there is the simplicity of joy in the experience that we witness or reminisce of what the excitement of waking up on Christmas Day as a child feels like. In our traditions, in the food, or the decorations on the tree.

 

This time of year, this day in particular is the most special day to be around family, to be with children or grandchildren, to see the joy on the faces those we exchange gifts with, and this year for so many of us this will be different from what we know. In that definition of joy, it may be hard for us to feel like we can experience the true spirit of what this season is and what this day means to us as Christians if we are alone today, or if we are not with those who we love.

 

But the unquestioned search for or expectation of joy can lead us away from what this day means. Today means Emmanuel. God is one of us.

 

Emmanuel means the one who formed the very shape of the contours of our world, graced it with presence, touch and footprints. The place and atmosphere our Holy maker formed, became the fabric by which our God’s own being was sustained, nourished and fed. We experience this earth as sacred, because we as Christians believe that the one who made it participated in its joys. Creation was experienced through God’s own eyes, nose, taste, touch and sound. Our God learned to speak, learned to walk. Jesus laughed, he cried and loved.

 

The celebration that we have of Christ coming is not held alone. The festivals of Christmas and Easter rely on each other for their meaning, our Gospel stories were written with the knowledge of Easter and in the meaning of Emmanuel we experience that the God of our creation came among us, participated in our fragile human condition and shared in our suffering.

 

Through advent the hymn O come O come Emmanuel has resounded more and more with what we are going through. This year as I’ve listened to that hymn, I’ve begun to hear the O Come O Come more and more as a plea, that in our lives of change and struggle, a call that we say for Christ to come, for God to share in our pain and strife. 

 

The pain and suffering that our redeemer went through on the cross is what draws weight to the story of innocence and peace that we witness today.

The Christmas story reminds us that through participating in our humanity our God was born of a human mother, was loved and cherished by a family, was greeted by kings and shepherds.

 

The knowledge of this is especially poignant right now.

 

Emmanuel God is with us, means that we are not alone. Our God knows our suffering, Our God knows our trials, our loneliness and our grief.

 

To have a God who knows our grief and suffering is truly the greatest joy of Christmas. Because joy is the hope in our darkness.

 

To comfort our grief when we lose someone in our life, we turn to the people who know the pain and the agony of grief. We are only able to open ourselves up and be vulnerable with people who we trust can relate to the pain that we are experiencing. We allow those to share in our grief who have themselves shouldered that burden of loss. Because it is only someone who has experienced that pain and suffering, that won’t try and make it better. There is nothing that we can say in words to someone who has lost a loved one that will magically heal them. 

 

Grief does not work like that, in the same way that joy cannot be manufactured. 

 

Emmanuel means that God, much like the person who sits with us in our grief, recognizes that what we need is presence and companionship.

 

Emmanuel means that we are held in love and care, through compassion and empathy in a way that transcends our human condition and is a balm for our soul.

 

Jesus knew what being afraid feels like, Jesus knows what it is to be alone. 

 

The power of the Christmas story and the coming of Christ as a child is one that breathes life and connection for us in the way that we experience our God. The powerful maker of the universe spent time with us as a vulnerable infant. 

 

That connection means that if we want to see Jesus as a friend, a companion, a role model, a teacher, a saviour, or a redeemer, we can. 

 

If the image of God as being something too big for us to comprehend is too much for us, we can see God through the eyes of a child. 

 

Into the quiet and restless darkness, today a light has come.