As the Christmas season is now in full swing all around me and as the Advent season is ramping up to the incredible, miraculous and glorious day of Christ’s birth, I’m feeling a little guilty. Actually, I don’t know that guilty is the right word. Perhaps a better word is distant. And maybe the best word is passive.
Even to admit that I’m feeling that way is hard because it feels so wrong. As a life long Christian I know how I’m supposed to feel. I’m supposed to feel excited! I’m supposed to feel overwhelmed with gratitude! Christmas is the day that changes everything! And I’m certainly not denying that. Christmas is the day that changes everything. But if I’m honest, right now, I don’t feel like it does. I’m still sitting here at my desk, on a rainy morning in the Pacific Northwest, feeling a mix of guilty, distant, and passive.
If you are at a place in your life and faith where you are all in and on fire for Jesus, bless you! I’m certainly not trying to be cynical or disrespectful, but I am trying to be honest. While I’m excited to get home to see my family and I’m excited to be with my friends, I’m in a bit of a wrestling match with Jesus, and I feel bad because His birthday is right around the corner.
I have always been inspired and captured by Jesus’ name, Emmanuel. It means, “God is with us!” In my best moments, this idea that “God is with us” provides me with a profound sense of hope. It’s a beautiful reality isn’t it? When life feels like heaven, God is with you! And when life feels more like Hell, God is with you! But in those moments in my life where I’m not my best self, moments like this morning, the question I’m wrestling with is, “God, where are you?”
Jesus. Where are you? I see the cancer in my family and in my friends. I see the homeless men, women and children under the bridges and on the corners. I see the bombs in Syria and Sudan. I see the addictions. I see the racism. I see the depression. I see… a lot.
But where are you? Jesus?
For those of you who like to fix things and for those of you who are naturally happy please don’t try to answer this question to quickly. I think it’s an important question to ask. It’s important because it’s honest.
Jesus, where are you?
Here is what I’m beginning to realize:
Jesus is almost never where I think He is.
When I see the brokenness in this world and as I wrestle with my own broken self I think Jesus is off somewhere else with people who are a whole lot better off than me. As I try to muster up good feelings of gratitude and cheer and as I try my hardest to choose joy, I think Jesus is off celebrating his birthday with his friends who are a little more put together. And for you – as you think about your self. How do you think about yourself? How do you think about God? Where is Jesus?
There are often times in my life where Jesus feels distant.
Here is another thing I’m beginning to realize:
It is in the moments when I bring my real, messy, broken, distant, honest self that Jesus shows up.
As beautiful as we make our Christmas season to be, the reality is that on the night Jesus was born it was actually pretty messy. Just because Mary was giving birth to Emmanuel – God is with us, don’t think it didn’t hurt like hell for her to bring Him into this world. It was messy. It was painful. I’m sure she screamed. I’m sure she cried. It’s hard to imagine a more vulnerable position for Mary to be in.
And that is where Jesus is. That is what His name means. Emmanuel. God is with us.
I’ll be honest. I don’t quite understand it all. I still find my self asking the question, “Jesus, where are you?”
But when I bring my messy, broken, tear-filled, screaming, vulnerable self… It’s in those moments that I can hear baby Jesus crying with me.
I hope you experience Joy and Peace. I hope your Christmas is full of beautiful moments spent with friends and family. I love the Christmas season!
But when the tears well up and when the doubt returns. When you find yourself asking, “Jesus, where are you?”
Scream and cry.
And maybe, just maybe, you’ll experience Emmanuel – God is with us – in a way you have never experienced Him before.