“’Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,’ which is translated, “God with us.’”  Matthew 1:23

The past couple years I have been enjoying being more intentional in taking time to be reflective during the Advent season, seeking to explore its meaning and significance in my life. A book, written by a dear friend called “The Advent Overture”, has been my primary source of reflection and pondering. This book is a rich compilation of meditations and poems that has been profoundly insightful and apprehending – one I would highly recommend.

I cannot help but find myself drawing comparisons between the setting of the Advent narrative and our current circumstances today.

The Christmas story follows a period of 400 years of silence with no prophetic voices speaking to the nation of Israel.  The nation was under Roman occupation and oppression, creating a sense of life being squeezed out from them. Collectively and individually, there existed a sense of being disconnected from a God who answered prayer and an unknown future.  A hopelessness had settled into the soul of the people.

Not unlike those times many years ago, there is a pervasive sense of isolation from family and loved ones.  For many, relating to a church community only happens online. Even for those who meet in person, the experience is so much different.  Fear and despair continue to overwhelm the emotions of many people.  Worry and anxiety over financial pressures, uncertainty about employment, potential failure of businesses that are struggling and the overall state of the economy has become like a heavy blanket.

However, this pandemic has provided an even greater opportunity to pause and reflect upon the truth of the Christmas story. A profound truth and holy reality are told to Joseph in a dream.  His betrothed is to have a child, conceived of the Holy Spirit, one who is named Jesus, a Saviour for His people. Jesus is a fulfilment of a prophetic word revealed so long ago to the prophet Isaiah in chapter 7 verse 14 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.”

A nation and people feeling forgotten and alone are suddenly in the spotlight of God’s redemptive purposes and plans. Heaven’s hosts are filled with choruses of praise and exaltation at the wonder of God’s gift to mankind. Jesus is the gift – the one who would identify with their weaknesses, struggles, sense of abandonment and aloneness.  An eternal promise is realized, the people are never to be abandoned again.

Just as then, it is today, when reflecting on Jesus no longer is there the sense of distance and disconnection from the realities each of us are experiencing.  There is One who walks alongside us in all our fears, anxieties and despair. Hope is once again restored. We are no longer alone.

May hope, faith and joy stir in our hearts as we are reminded – Immanuel with us!

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