“All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “the virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” - which means, “God with us.” (Matthew 1:22,23)
Deep in December, when the days grow shorter, when sunlight slants at a deep angle, when trees are bare, and the landscape looks like it has been sketched with a pencil, the heart inside can begin to look much the same as the world outside. Psychologists call it “seasonal affect disorder,” and it hits lots of people during the winter months. Problems that once
seemed manageable appear bigger now. Hope is harder to come by. And melancholy hangs overhead like clouds heave with snow or rain.
It is deep in December that the reassuring words of the prophet are heard: “Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and they shall name him Immanuel, which means ‘God with us.’” Jesus has lots of names: King of Kings, Good Shepherd, and Bread of Life. But in December none sounds quite so right as “Immanuel.” In December when the heart is in the shadows and signs of God’s presence are not quite as clear as they are in Spring, we need a quiet reminder that regardless of how it looks, God’s name is Immanuel because God is indeed with us.
There is not a place on earth, of course, where God is not with us. However, the Church has always promised us that God is most reliably present in worship when the Word is preached and the Sacraments are celebrated. I think that deep inside we all know that. Maybe that is why Advent and Christmas Eve services are usually so well attended. We all bring winter with us to the altar and lean forward to hear the Good News in song, sermon, Scripture and Sacrament that our Savior’s name is Immanuel, “God is with us.”
Blessings for the Season!