God is with us always — that's true Christmas message
By John W. Maurice
Saturday, December 1, 2018
“…but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:7-8)
December 2 is the first Sunday of Advent, and we begin the journey of preparing ourselves for Christmas. It is a time of hope, anticipation, family, music and celebrations. It is also a time when we are stimulated to think about God’s love for humankind and to meditate on the birth of a Savior.
I am not naïve enough to think that everyone reading this column has lived on “easy street” this past year with no problems, pain, or circumstances that have distracted them from focusing upon the goodness and care of God. Quite the opposite, I am certain that every reader has dealt with some difficult circumstances.
This year was difficult for my family. The health of my mother began to spiral downward, and she was in and out of the hospital and rehabilitation facilities. Her body was broken from numerous falls, and toward the end of her life she was unable to walk or use her arms. She had lived with pain for more than two years and would not take any medication for fear of becoming addicted to painkillers. On Oct. 30 my mother died. Despite her brokenness, one of the most difficult things in my life was sitting by her bedside as she drew her last breath.
Each year at this time (Dec. 2), my heart is in knots as I am reminded of the death of our firstborn child, Matthew. He was a beautiful little boy with a full life ahead of him. He died nine days before his third birthday. Each year I am reminded of his death, feel emotional pain, and think about what should have been. He would have been 34 years old this year. Even as I pen these words, the wounds of my heart are opened up anew.
During the past year, many of you have experienced difficulties. You have lost someone you loved, been diagnosed with a horrible disease, experienced a broken relationship with a friend, or seen your marriage end in divorce when you had hoped it would last forever.
The Christmas message is not that God will shelter us from evil or bad circumstances. Rather, the beautiful message of Christmas is that Emmanuel is with us during the most difficult times of our lives. Philippians 2:7-8 reveals a God that chose to give up the riches of heaven to come and live in this messy world. He chose to enter our world and experience the hardships of the fallen world just like us.
As we enter this season of advent, find hope knowing that you are not alone in even the worst of times. God is with you and in your pain … and in your joy.
I leave you the words of a benediction prayed by the Rev. Robert Schuller:
“And now may the Lord bless you and keep you. May the Lord make His face to shine upon you and be gracious unto you. And may God give you His peace in your going out and in your coming in, in your lying down and in your rising up, in your labor and in your leisure, in your laughter and in your tears … until you come to stand before Jesus in that day in which there is no sunset and no dawning. Amen.”
John W. Maurice is president of Mid-Atlantic Christian University. The opinions expressed in this column belong to the author and may not be those of the university.