THE COVID-19 CHURCH CHALLENGE: Immanuel, God With Us
Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God is with us’).
The coronavirus pandemic is upon us.
The rush is on to shop and stockpile food and supplies. In order control the spread of the deadly COVID-19, in-home quarantine measures are set in place for an indefinite period separating friends, loved ones, and the community-at-large. This only heightens the feeling of aloneness for an already anxious population as they count the days and fear for their lives.
Stop right where you are! Take a deep breath and travel back with me to a time when there was no hope in sight. Can you imagine a world without Jesus? Yet many times, we live our lives as if he doesn’t even exist. A crisis comes around and we try to handle it on our own. As fear floods our hearts, instead of reaching out to Jesus, we withdraw into a dark corner of our souls.
Then Jesus interrupts our lives, fills the darkness with his marvelous light, and reminds us that he has never left us to deal with trouble and trials on our own. His love flows over the crisis like a soothing balm and once again, we experience his presence. Once again, he steps into the stress-filled existence that is our and changes everything—and I mean everything!
Jesus could have come to us in many ways, but he chose to suddenly interrupt our very ordinary lives with his most extraordinary life. He could have chosen to be born in a palace. After all, he was a King. Yet his life on earth began in a manger in the midst of a dark, dank, and dirty cave. The simplicity of his birth is one of his most precious gifts to me, and one of the most profound lessons in my life. His glorious arrival is hidden in an inconspicuous locale.
I often wished I had been there that holy night when Jesus was born. I even got the chance to make the pilgrimage to Bethlehem, the town of his birth. Today, the Church of the Nativity, one of the oldest Christian churches in the world, stands over the place where Jesus was born in a manger. In the grotto beneath the church, many overly anxious pilgrims wait in line to touch the 14-point silver star marking the spot where Mary is believed to have given birth to Jesus.
While this church building marked the beginning of Christianity and is considered one of the holiest landmarks in Christendom, Jesus reminded me that I have my own manger, my own holy moment when God became a reality to me, and I began to worship him in spirit and truth!
In Isaiah 7:14, the prophet proclaimed, “Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God is with us’).”
During this pandemic crisis, I am reminded of why Christ came in the first place. He is Immanuel, meaning God with us.
God desires to be involved in the simple, ordinary happenings in our life: where we go and what we do. Even Romans 8:35-39 reminds us that a the deadly COVID-19 cannot ever separate us from his love.
Christ is the reason behind the smile we give to the stressed out stranger and the patience we exhibit in the crowd of panicked neighbors. It is his love, poured into our hearts, that compels us to constantly celebrate his birth and bring home his message of hope through every beautifully wrapped gift, every special meal, every thoughtful phone call, text message and video chat.
Join me in this quest to celebrate Jesus and his intimate presence in everything we do. Welcome him into your home while you are shut-in. Invite your friends, family, or even strangers who are staying with you to pray in his presence.
During this mandatory lockdown, seek creative ways to reach out to the lonely and share his great love. Immanuel, God with us!
Our LifeGroup Prayer
Heavenly Father, today we cherish the reality of your presence in our lives. Forgive us for sometimes failing to remember that you are with us and will never forsake us, even to the end of the age.
As we celebrate your birth, life, death and resurrection of your Son, empower us by your Holy Spirit to embody your presence and be the difference to those in need around us.
Open our eyes to see our loved, friends and neighbors as you see them! During this time of crisis, may we richly bless them as you have blessed through the day of your birth and the intimacy of your presence! Amen.