God is with you

Imagine yourself as a teenager, from a poor, obscure village. An angel appears and tells you:

You are highly favored. God is with you. Do not be afraid. (Read the full story in Luke 1)

Mary’s response to the promises: she is “greatly troubled.” Why? Perhaps she figured, God’s favor and presence sometimes comes out of necessity. (As indeed, it did.) God offers favor not just so we feel good, but to give confidence, strength, power as we move forward into a new adventure. A divine assignment. A rather overwhelming one.

What assignment lies before you right now? One of my friends will bury her husband this week. And then she and her three kids will walk on through life without him. She knows God is with her, but it’s a hard road.

Another friend is at chemo today, as she is every other week. Her strength in the face of this comes, I know, from her faith. God is with her. But it’s still hard.

We can do hard things

We can do hard things. But that doesn’t make them easy. What makes them doable is the promise that the angel gave to Mary: you are favored. God is with you. Don’t be afraid.

Mary hadn’t heard anything about what God was asking her to do. Way before she said yes, the angel reminds her of truth: you are highly favored. God is with you. She didn’t have to earn that favor because it was already there.

Way before she agreed to this highly inconvenient divine assignment, God told her that she was loved, and she was not alone. God offered unconditional favor, a promise of presence.

What are you afraid of? What challenge are you facing?

Where do you need God’s favor and presence?

The angel’s parting words: “no word from God will fail.” Other translations put it, “Nothing is impossible with God,” which of course seems, well, impossible. Despite prayers for healing, people get cancer. People die. We struggle. So, what does it mean that nothing is impossible with God?

I don’t have all the answers. But here’s what I know. This season we focus on Christ’s birth—Emmanuel, which means, God with us.

How does that presence manifest? In others. This week, I’ve watched my little band of friends rally around Maria, whose husband died on Sunday. We’ve brought food, we’re helping with details for the wake, supporting as best we can. We’ve said yes to offering God’s love in the only ways we know how.

Who needs to feel “God with them” through you?

Maybe you’re lonely and uncertain this holiday season—who might be feeling the same way and needs you to reach out? Who needs to experience “God with them” through you? To simply let them know they are loved, and seen?

Today’s verse in my Advent devotional, The Gift of Christmas Present is incredibly prescient: “My dear, dear friends, if God loved us like this, we certainly ought to love each other. No one has seen God, ever. But if we love one another, God dwells deeply within us, and his love becomes complete in us—perfect love!”

What if Emmanuel, God with us, is the assignment God offers to each of us? To be a completer of God’s love to others? What if God draws near when we are loving each other?

You don’t earn God’s favor by loving others. You simply become more aware of it. Like Mary, you are highly favored. God is with you. You don’t need to fear.  

Mary said yes to this inconvenient assignment. And experienced the presence of God. What do you need to say yes to this week?