The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him “Immanuel”—which means, “God with us.” – Matthew 1:23 (NIV)
I can never remember a time when I doubted the presence of God in my life.
There are, however, occasions I struggle with my feelings. Sometimes the One who promised never to leave or forsake me seems to do just that.
Like the time I was in the hospital after giving birth to my second child by C-section. I’d developed a mild but mysterious fever, so my doctor determined I shouldn’t nurse my baby until the matter was resolved. While I accepted this outwardly, my heart cried, I want my baby!
The hospital was miles from family and friends, and winter had arrived, so I had few visitors. Feeling miserable and abandoned, I remembered my mother’s homemade chicken soup, which she made when I was sick, and which never failed to make me feel better. Suffering with Alzheimer’s disease, though, she wouldn’t be making it for me now. Lord, I prayed, when I get home, I want some homemade chicken soup.
Eventually the cause of the fever revealed itself, and I was discharged to spend another week in bed. A day after I got home, my friend Sharon arrived, bringing supper. Yep, homemade chicken soup.
Coincidence? I never believed it was. For me, it was God-incidence.
In the 37 years since, God’s presence in my life has been evident over and over. Not every time I think I need a tangible sign, but enough to bolster my faith and hope in the silent, where-are-you-God times.
Like the time one November I sensed a definite nudging towards the end of my quiet time to go to town and get groceries. Go now, the inner voice urged. My prayer chair became a hot seat. I glanced out the window. Overcast, but no precipitation.
We all know how fickle the weather could be in these parts. Especially in late November. I checked the forecast online and knew that if I didn’t go then, our Thanksgiving would be minus homemade pumpkin pie with extra creamy Cool Whip, my special candied yams, and the aroma of turkey wafting through the house, unless I wanted to fight Old Man Winter on the 12-mile drive to town and back. I left within the hour—and got home just as the snow, ice, and wind arrived.
Then there are the Bible verses that leap off the page and burn themselves into my mind and heart, the gentle proddings, the encouragement from others just when I need it. I could go on, but like the apostle John wrote as he closed his gospel, “If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written” (John 21:15 NIV).
Today is the first Sunday of Advent, a time for preparing our hearts for the celebration of Immanuel’s birth. As the first Advent candle is lit, remember the times God showed up in your life, the occasions He clearly whispered and sometimes shouted, “I’m here!”
During this Advent season, be like Brother Lawrence, the monk who saw God even in the hectic kitchen where he worked, and “practice the presence of God.”
Because He’s here, you know. For He has said, “Never will I leave you. Never will I forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5), “I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).
As I light the first Advent candle and begin preparing for the celebration of the birth of Your Son, dear God, give me an increasing awareness of Your abiding presence in my life. Amen.