Emmanuel

We had snow yesterday in Harrisburg! It was just a light dusting, but the appearance of white flakes floating softly through the air delivered a sense of wonder and anticipation. Then in church we sang “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” as one of the opening hymns, a personal favorite. When my sister and I were little, we would “ice skate” around the living room to Amy Grant’s 1986 version of the song. I still can’t resist performing a triple sow cow [In reality: dramatic, floppy jump-twirl] when I hear it.

Emmanuel, “God with us.” I think of Mary – pregnant and uncomfortable – riding on and walking alongside of a donkey as she prepared to give birth to “God with us.” Was she mostly focused, like, this will be over soon, so let me just grin and bear it? Was she understandably cranky, asking God, Um, what the heck were you thinking? Did she have a sense of how important all of this was, or did she get discouraged by what could reasonably be perceived as a lack of support or confirmation?

If I were her, I’d be upset about the stupid census, the lack of regular lodging, the slow plodding of the donkey. I’m a planner, so I would probably be expecting several clear and visible signs that God was making a way for the child to be born. With every set-back my frustration would increase, and as the door to the inn slammed shut, I would finally throw my hands up and exclaim, “What NOW!?” to exhausted Joseph.

The Christian Scriptures don’t like to tell us much about the inner lives of people, and they often omit the existence of women altogether, so we’ll never know how Mary responded in those moments. But pondering my own reactions to the story makes me wonder, how much of modern Christianity has become equating personal comfort and ease with “provision” or “favor” from God?

Do I get frustrated or opt out of plans and possible actions because they are difficult, poorly planned and frustrating? Of course I do! Could God be working alongside of me in those situations, actively creating a miracle when I persevere? I hope so. I’m going to keep thinking about it.

 

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