Beautiful Between

living fully in the now & not yet

If you feel alone in the dark this Christmas, this is for you <3

Note: this article was originally written several years ago, before the pandemic and social distancing became necessities. While Christmas may feel very different this year for many of us, one thing that hasn’t changed is the invitation to slow down and experience Christ as Immanuel, God With Us. We might just need that now more than ever.

Things are spinning wild with all the preparations. The Christmas countdown clock says 6 days, 14 hours, 59 minutes, 12 seconds. 11. 10. 9… 

I’m trying to balance giving gifts, making plans, preparing for guests, and decorating our home for Christmas. Still, the tree sits naked, not even lights to dress it, and there are parties every night this week. There are far too many things to do and far too little time.

But then I hear the name. I catch my breath with a gasping, awed soul: God is with us.

Immanuel strikes me wide-eyed in wonder. Immanuel and all its weight settles into me, bubbles up into laughter and tears. And I remember what all this hoopla is about and why I really do need a break.

God. With. Us. Were there ever sweeter words?

Words…they fail me so here. They aren’t enough to say what it means that God is with us. That His with-ness came after us into skin and bone and blood. That He moved into the derelict and broken-down neighborhood to make friends of the broken-est inhabitants.

Like me.

God is with us. Do you hear that resonance deep in your chest? Your heartstrings are responding to the beauty of this truth.

He isn’t far away. We don’t have to go looking, or trying, or striving. He isn’t hiding or avoiding. He is right here in the room, kind and welcoming and warm.

These are glad tidings.

This is good news.

It’s not the sweetness of our nativity scenes. The truest beauty of this holiday isn’t even in family and togetherness, sacred and special as that is.

It’s that God is with us. I can’t say those words enough. They are holy, heaven-and-earth-shaking. Soul-reshaping.

This is how it’s all being made right, by perfection coming close enough to breathe our breath. Close enough to wear our skin. Close enough to carry our aches.

This is good news for those celebrating and grieving alike: you are not alone.

If you ache over loss.

If you mourn something stolen.

If you fear the uncertainty of days ahead.

We are not alone. God is with us. God is with you.

But we miss this, don’t we? We lose focus in the rush of the season. Expectations are high (probably from ourselves, most of all). The schedule is full. Perhaps it’s time for us to pause, take it slow?

Perhaps it’s time to breathe in the story of God coming near like we’re hearing it the very first time. Like Shauna Letellier suggests, perhaps we should zoom in for a closer look.

In the midst of these hurried, harried days, chilled air can remind us of the thin space between heaven and earth. I want to immerse myself in the hinge-of-history moment when God put on flesh.

Join me?

I wrote you some Christmas letters, reminders of God coming close in the dark and hard and broken places of our lives.

Sign up below to get them in your inbox for the next week.

I’ll fill this space with what I’m learning, my meditations, how the awareness of God’s with-ness is changing me this season.

We can call it a devotional or pretend we’re chatting over coffee and tea. It’s no pressure. No rush, no requirement. Just a little room to pause and breathe in.

And maybe, be a little more aware of Immanuel, God with us.

If you’d like to get these messages in your inbox, just leave me your email address below. I’ll send these Christmas letters daily for the next week, plus weekly(ish) encouragement after that.

6 Replies

      1. Leah Weybright

        Still just as poignant this year!!

  1. This is so perfect, thanks for sharing friend

  2. Clark Roush, Ph.D.

    My college choir is singing a version of “Veni Veni Immanuel” this year, and “Immanuel” means even more to me this year as my family struggles through my wife’s cancer. Thank you for your post, and blessings on your holiday season.

  3. Reading your words always helps me breath easier. Today is no exception . . . Thanks!

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