1 John 4:16-21
Isaiah 53: 1-12
After having 3 kids, the 4th labor and delivery is mostly routine. Except when it’s not.
To save you from the full storyline seeing as how this is a short devotional, as my wife were sitting in the hospital watching Shark Tank and eating a snack as we waited for contractions to increase, the nurse came in to check how far along she was. And in what seemed like a whirlwind of next moments, I found myself following a team of people rushing Aubrey to have an emergency c-section. Alarms were sounding as dozens of scrub-wearing credentialed workers with concerned faces were rushing by the room that they left me in with the words, “Here, put on these scrubs and someone will bring you back soon”.
Soon became 5 minutes. Then 10. Then 20. It felt like an eternity.
The stillness and silence of the room was ironic given the chaos and alarm of the hallway. It was in the 30 minutes of waiting that I discovered it was just me and God as we entered into a very back and forth prayer conversation where I was faced with believing lies or having faith that my son and wife were going to be ok. There was nothing I could do. Was this because of something I had done? What are we going to have to do? What is going on right now?
To spare you the continued tension of the story, Judah and my wife are very much alive and healthy today. The days following that event were a little intense as they both were in recovery from a very traumatic birthing process that was due to Judah pinching his umbilical cord, thus cutting off his oxygen supply. But everyone was and is ok.
But in the waiting, everything was not ok. My circumstance was consuming my perception of reality, and I felt like my mind was swirling with fear and doubt as I tried to overcome it as best I could with truth and faith. And although I knew that God was with me, the doubt from the circumstance keep me wondering if he really was with me.
Luke’s genealogy that precedes the telling of how Jesus was born displays a list of a real family, full of flaws and sin. A lineage worthy of celebration and regret. And we often look at our own lives and families and circumstance, wondering if Christ would come into our midst as well.
To see Jesus as God’s love for us, or his grace for us, allows us to understand that it isn’t out of us deserving it or earning it. He doesn’t withhold his presence from us as it is freely given. God’s grace is his presence not withheld.
Sometimes we tend to think that we find ourselves in God’s presence because we have gone to church, or because we woke up this morning and read scripture, or because we prayed before our meal. Yet, in each time I am aware of God’s presence, it’s not because of something that I did or didn’t do. God’s presence was already there before my awareness of it.
In the same way, we think that our act of loving God is through going to church, or reading scripture, or praying before a meal.
Yet, we love because he first loved us and gave his son for us. God’s love is first, and his grace is there, even when we are not aware of it. It’s not because of something that we do or don’t do – it’s already there before our awareness of it.
So are we too not like Mary? By faith, do we not also have the Spirit dwelling within us? And in our belief that God loved us that he would send his Spirit to dwell in us, is there not life born in us as well?
When we say to God that we want our lives to be meaningful or we want to serve him or that we want to do what he desires, we must know that it will come with difficulty, and yet God’s presence is with us.
Just like how the pain and sickness and unease of each trimester and ultimately pains of labor are for the sake of love being brought forth in relationship, we too are moved from our own comforts in order to be broken open so that we have a larger capacity for faith, hope, and love.
We must move from the abstract of Christianity during advent and into the real. We must move from the lamb who was slain and into the real human man who died for our sins. We must move from the light in the darkness and into an active pursuit of an awareness of God’s presence pouring out love and grace amidst spiritual forces that seek to cause death in our lives today. We must move from the “story” and theory of Emmanuel (God with us 2000 years ago via baby in a manger), into the reality of Emmanuel (Holy Spirit with us).
And what do we do with this love? Just as we freely receive it, we freely give it. By being present in the midst of someone’s life and family and circumstance that might be both full of celebration and regret, with a confidence in our Emmanuel, God with us.
Here are some reflection questions:
What is the dialogue that only I can have with God because of the situation that I’m in?
What parts of my life have been uncovered by finding myself here?
What unexpected place might God want to meet me in during this uneasy time I’m experiencing?
May you find a real conversation with the Almighty God who is with you in your circumstance.