It’s the Christmas season once again—the time of year when peace is the hope of the world. But peace can sometimes be elusive, particularly when you work in ministry and must face heavy circumstances as part of your calling.
Let me draw your attention to Isaiah’s prophecy: Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel (Isa 7:14).
We know Immanuel means “God with us.” How can we embrace that prophetic comfort in this current time? So many Christians serving in ministry are tired from the pressures and distractions swirling around, some even to the point of wondering whether continuing in ministry is still their call. If that’s you, please hear the Christmas message that God loves you and is with you. And not only is God with you, but he wants very much for you to come to him. His arms are open wide to embrace you—always.
When Jesus was born, the Son of God became flesh and fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy. God was now with us. Later, Jesus himself made his presence with us permanent by saying, “I’m with you always, to the end of the age.” Take comfort that Jesus will stay with you as you serve in your call from beginning to end. From Jesus’ perspective, the prophecy “God with us” has become the promise “I’m with you”. His presence with us today is truly a gift of Christmas.
How can we experience Jesus’ gift of Emmanuel, God-with-us? Well, Jesus gave us the perfect model in his retreats to the wilderness to be with his Father. In prayer and solitude he found guidance, support, and a Father’s loving embrace that told him everything is okay. That time with his Father gave Jesus the strength he needed to persevere in his mission. And Elijah is an example of experiencing God’s embrace even when we are too depleted to seek it. When Elijah fled his ministry and wanted to die, God instead fed him, encouraged him, and launched him back into his call. And that guidance, support, and loving embrace is what Jesus wants to give you, right now!
And there’s more that Jesus wants to give you. He gave us other ways to experience Emmanuel, God-with-us. Christians can be “little Christs” to each other and provide an ear to listen, a heart to pray, and a partner to help process the challenges of ministry. In being both supportive and vulnerable, we can be there for each other as we press on. Other ways to be replenished for frontline ministry might include a stay at a pastors’ retreat centre, professional counselling, or a reprioritization of self-care.
Emmanuel, God-with-us, Jesus, is with you right now, ready to listen to whatever is on your heart. Be encouraged by these Scriptures:
· “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28
· Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7
· Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Hebrews 4:16
Christmas is the perfect time to remember that you are not alone. All the love, all the care, all the healing power of Emmanuel, God-With-Us, is now yours to receive as God’s gift to you.
Emmanuel! God with you! Hallelujah! Merry Christmas! From myself and the CCCC board and staff.