Yesterday, on Christmas, my brother was called to help fight a fire. Tomorrow, I will be a pallbearer in a funeral. These events remind me that Christmas is not always a happy time. Sometimes Christmas can seem more like a tragedy than good news and great joy.
This holiday season there are many people hurting across the globe. People are suffering in much of the Middle East, France, and parts of Africa, as well as some areas of the US. They are suffering from or grieving loss of life and the horror of terrorist attacks, deranged shootings, racial unrest, or other difficult situations. These anguishing experiences bring out this question – Where is God in all of this?
The beginning of the answer is in the Christmas story. Come take a look. Mary had it tough. Her country was occupied by a cruel government, her pregnancy caused her to risk being killed by her own people, she had to give birth in a barn while travelling, and she had to flee to a foreign country with her young child to keep him from being murdered. Joseph, with the same residence issues, had to believe Mary and his dreams instead of his own eyes which told him that he was not being played as a fool by a cheating fiancée.
When we talk about pain in the story of Christmas, we must not forget that all of the other boys in the region two years of age and under were murdered. For the boys of Bethlehem, Christmas was a death sentence. For their mothers and fathers it was a time of unspeakable pain and sorrow. Here is how Jeremiah described it as quoted by Matthew:
“A VOICE WAS HEARD IN RAMAH,
WEEPING AND GREAT MOURNING,
RACHEL WEEPING FOR HER CHILDREN;
AND SHE REFUSED TO BE COMFORTED,
BECAUSE THEY WERE NO MORE.” Matt.2.18 – NASB
Where was God in all that suffering? Here He is: Immanuel. Immanuel is one of the names given to Jesus, which means “God with us.” Immanuel means that in the middle of the cruel occupation, devastating fear, and widespread death, God was right there. Immanuel was experiencing it with them. Immanuel means that now, even in the middle of horrible circumstances, God is with us and knows how we suffer. Immanuel cares enough to not only experience the pain with us, but in our place endure greater pain. Immanuel means we have hope.
Immanuel is the greatest thing that has ever happened to us.