This Christmas I was enjoying the season of Advent, a name which comes from the Latin adventis signifying "coming; arrival." It’s a season of anticipation in which we remember what it means to live in expectation and waiting. As a child counting down the days until Christmas, was is difficult to deal with emotional anxiety of waiting? Seem impossible?
Then my doctor gave me another word for my season - “Leukemia” Suddenly, I experienced a new and different anxiety of waiting. Then, God’s Holy Spirit offered me a healing word – “Immanuel.” Immanuel is a composite word from the Hebrew that translates “Immanu” (with us) … joined with “El” (God) meaning … “With us, God”
God’s chosen, Hebrew children had waited through hundreds of years of pain and suffering for the promised Meshiach – Messiah following the promise of the great prophet, Isaiah. "The Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold (don’t miss it) a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel (Isa. 7:14).
In the New Testament we see the coming of Emmanuel (Greek spelling) in the birth of Jesus the Son of God “with us.” Christmas was promised to God’s people but did NOT come quickly - there needed to be a waiting time … a processing time … a longing time. How long O Lord?” comes the cry from Isaiah 6 and Psalm 13. Words from my favorite Christmas carol came to mind. After a beautiful intro, it comes right to the point: “Long lay the world in sin and error pining – ‘til He appeared and the soul felt His worth” How’s your world doing? How’s our world doing? Is it broken? In a mess? What are you longing for at this time? Living in a seemingly messed up, broken world is not new.
In 1990 my wife faced a critical, life-threating surgery that only a few doctors would attempt. Hundreds of miles from home, we were cooped up in a Dallas hospital for two weeks at Christmas time. The Holy Spirit brought God’s word to us from Isaiah 41:8-14. When you read that passage don’t miss God assuring Israel that they are chosen – not rejected and further, “I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Vs 10). Amazing words followed: “I the LORD, your God take hold of your right hand and say do not fear; I will help you.” Can you picture God’s promise? See Him holding your right hand with His right hand, not holding your left hand in a typical way? He leads us step by step into our future with His eyes directly upon us, always looking into our eyes, encouraging us to take one more step.
Just before midnight one Christmas Eve, my wife and I attended a candlelight church service. Lights dimmed, warmth and peace filled the church Then, good friends walked in with their 3-year-old son! Suddenly, Zack (Zachariah) blurted out, “God’s here!” I whispered to my wife, “I think we can go home now.” As I face a new year with my doctor’s diagnosis darkening my days, I know I will carry Zach’s words as Immanuel takes my hand and leads me forward. I hope you will too. In the years to come, whenever you see a manger scene let it remind you, God’s here.
Pastor Bill Baltz is a member of the Carson Valley Ministers’ Association.