Immanuel and Our Stories

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A couple of years ago I walked by the Jewish Student Center at NYU in New York City. The sign outside said, " YOUR GOOD DEEDS CAN BRING MOSHIACH NOW." Moshiach means Messiah. Students are reminded that in a sense it is up to them. God will send the Messiah when there is enough goodness. If they try hard enough and accumulate enough "brownie points", God will want to come.

As Christians, we believe that the Messiah has come. Jesus came as Messiah, God's anointed one, not because He saw an abundance of goodness, but because He loved us even when we were not good. Romans 5:8 says, "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Jesus said, "I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. (Luke 5:32) In our heads we think we get that but I am not so sure that we are much different from the Jewish students at NYU when it comes to believing that God is looking for people who have a lot of merit points. We want those imaginary "rooms" in the houses of our hearts to be clean so that Jesus will want to live there. We feel guilty about the places in our lives that are not good enough for Jesus. Somehow we have gotten the impression that the spaces in our lives that have been scarred with divorce and debt and disappointing decisions by our kids make Jesus uncomfortable. But God With Us is for all of the spaces in our lives. He is not looking for perfect rooms - He is looking for rooms where we are willing to open the doors.

This Christmas as I listen to the songs about Immanuel I can't help thinking about Ahaz's story and about how God wants to come into the hard and messy spaces of my life. Jesus didn't come to Bethlehem to inspire perfect holiday dinners or sparkly new outfits. He came to be God With Us. I am celebrating that. May we be people who welcome God's presence throughout this Christmas season and the coming year.

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