Letting “Emmanuel” Be Enough

canstockphoto7313045“‘Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,’ which means, ‘God is with us.’”

God is with us. After a few hundred years, the Israelites of the first century had to be wondering.

It was a period of defeat, exile, occupation, and extreme brutality, made worse by the fact that there was no prophecy. Prophets were the human voice of God, and their absence meant that God was silent.

Maybe his silence meant that he had abandoned them, gone to find a people who would listen to him.

The Israelites hadn’t proven to be very good listeners.

So this name, Emmanuel, was a good thing. God hadn’t abandoned them after all. He was still with them.

Still, you had to wonder if that would be enough. After all, God had been with them before, and that didn’t seem to satisfy anybody.

Genesis 2-3 is the story of God being with Adam and Eve in the Garden, but it wasn’t enough for them that God was with them.

They wanted to be like God. Which is not the same as when we say we are supposed to be like Jesus.

No, it was more that they wanted to be God just like God was God.

Being humans who were simply with God wasn’t good enough.

Later, in Genesis 11, the people decided if they couldn’t be God, they could at least go live where he lived, so they started to build a tower that would reach into the heavens.

Once again, it wasn’t good enough that God had come down to live with them, they insisted on going up to live where he lived.

Glad we don’t make that mistake anymore.

Later, once in the Promised Land, it wasn’t good enough that God was with them; they wanted a king to lead them in military victories against the Philistines. That hit its peak early in David’s rule, but soon after—right about the time he did a peeping-Tom thing on Uriah’s wife—things started to go downhill.

And save for an occasional uptick with kings like Hezekiah and Josiah the monarchy’s fall only picked up speed.

God is with us. Why isn’t that good enough? What is it about us that we want more than that?

We want to hear God in some unmistakable way, preferably the way you and I hear each other.

We want to see God, and once again it would be cool if we could see him the way we see our Aunt Martha.

God is with us, and still we search for something more.

I’m not saying that it’s not OK to want to see God, hear God, feel God, experience God in some spectacular, Guideposts-worthy way. Some people do.

I’m just wondering if we lived our lives never having seen God the way that some people have seen him; never having heard God the way some people have heard him; never having felt or experienced God the way some people have felt or experienced him—would we be OK with that?

Would we be content simply with the knowledge that God is with us, even in those times when he seems strangely absent.

It takes faith to believe that God is with you when you don’t see, hear, or feel him, but life in Christ is lived by faith.

By faith we believe and live that God is with us, and in more than just the way that an omnipresent God is always with us.

By faith we live and believe that he is with us in whatever circumstance we find ourselves at any given time.

Maybe if we learn to simply be content with that, nothing else will really matter.

Image by © Can Stock Photo Inc. / porteador

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