The desert is cold at night.
Not cold enough you freeze to death, usually, just cold enough it’s miserable. In some ways, that’s the worst cold of all.
Nothing is colder than being alone in a crowd.
Nothing is colder than being among strange houses that will not take you in.
They were Joseph’s relatives, in Bethlehem: or, at least, people who shared his celebrated ancestor. But when he came, leading Miriam who was bearing the Heir to David, they would not take that family in.
In the cold of a desert night, in the chaos of a throng of strangers who ought to have been family and didn’t want them, in the jumble of overcrowded houses that was Bethlehem during a census, it happened:
Emmanuel, God With Us.
He had already been there, of course, hiding under Miriam’s heart, but it was then that He made His entrance into the world.
Not breathing warm air, but cold.
Not in the light, but in the dark.
Not among friends and not in solitude, but in the worst kind of loneliness: a crowd of people who ought to be family, but will not let you in.
He could have come in any other way: on the clouds of Heaven, on the wings of angels, into the emperor’s palace, in the glory of midsummer, in a way that would make it obvious to everyone that He was God With Us. But He didn’t. He came this way.
God from God, light of light, lo He comes forth from the Virgin’s womb into the cold and dark.
There is so much I do not know. There are so many things about which I used to be quite sure, and now I’m not. There are so many questions I ask now, that I used to think were beyond question. But this I believe and profess: Emmanuel, God With Us, came in the cold. Emmanuel, God with us, came in the dark. Emmanuel, God with us, came among strangers who ought to have been family and did not let them in.This will be a sign unto you: you will find Emmanuel wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger, in the cold, in the dark, among strangers who ought to be family but will not let Him in.
You will find Emmanuel among people with nowhere to go. You will find Emmanuel among people with no one to love them. You will find Emmanuel among the abused and the neglected. You will find Emmanuel among homeless people and addicts. You will find Emmanuel among disabled people and sick people. You will find Emmanuel among persecuted races that the powerful treat as garbage– yes, even and especially those that Emmanuel’s own Church treat as garbage.
And if you are cold, if you are in the dark, if you are alone: you will find Emmanuel enthroned in you. You will find Emmanuel suffering with you. You will find Emmanuel rejected by everyone who has rejected you.
Emmanuel is God With Us: God with the people who dwell in darkness. We saw a great light, a star in the Heavens that had not been there before, and we heard the angels singing. And then the star was not visible anymore, and the angels were silent, but Emmanuel was still with us in the dark. He bore our infirmities and took them to the Cross, and then He took our death with Him down into the netherworld. Then He rose from the dead and ascended to His Father, but He is still God With Us, and He is with us always, even unto the end of the age.
Someday He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, but until that day, you will find Him in the cold, in the dark, among strangers who ought to be family but will not let Him in.
On that day, we who dwell in darkness will see light again. We will hear angels sing again. We will no longer be among strangers, because there will be no such thing as a stranger. But until that day, Emmanuel dwells among us in the cold and dark.
And if you are in the cold and dark, Emmanuel dwells in you.
(image via Pixabay)
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