As a lover of books, I’ve made a habit of reading to our boys before their bedtime from an early age. Brendan, our eldest is a seasoned recipient of reading with Dad. Over the years we have read lots of different books together, it’s special bonding time. It has even become a notable point of thanks on Fathers day, I now have a number of cards from Brendan specifically thanking me for reading to him. It will be a lasting memory for us both.
Thankfully, I’m generally not out more than two nights a week, three at most. On these nights, there is generally no story time with Dad. Due to this unpredictability, a daily reoccurring question is “Dad (insert the name of book we are currently reading) tonight?”
About 12 months or so ago, I recall an occasion where Brendan asked the same question multiple times in the one day, in fact I remember we were at the beach, in the water, when the question came yet again. At first I thought to myself “Are you kidding?!” But then, in a moment of clarity, I actually heard the question behind the question, which was “Dad, will you be with me? Will you spend time with me?”
That moment of realisation completely changed the way I heard and hear the story question. It’s not really about the book, and in fact it probably wouldn’t matter what we were doing, so long as it involved being together. For a child there is nothing more reassuring when they have their parents with them, by their side, choosing to be present. It offers unparalleled security.
At Christmas time, we celebrate the wonderful news of the incarnation. God becoming a man and choosing to make his dwelling among us (John 1:14). Matthew bookends his Gospel with this tremendous assurance:
1:23-23 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”). 28:20b “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
At Christmas, the message, loud and clear is this: ‘I am with you’. Of course, we know that the ‘I am with you’ of Christmas leads to the ‘I will save you’ of Easter. Jesus’ ‘being with’ carries immense power, purpose and personal sacrifice. God, in the person of Jesus came for us, to offer us comfort, reassurance and ultimately freedom, freedom from the bondage of our sin; offering us the truest form of life imagined.
I invite you this Christmas to hear the words of Jesus “I am with you” in whatever season of life you find yourself in, and may you hear the statement behind the statement, “I am for you”. If we humble ourselves to a level of childlike dependence, there are no more powerful words of comfort, reassurance and hope we could ever hear. Christmas is indeed a time for great joy!
Merry Christmas and may God’s rich blessing rest upon you.
Love, Pastor Joel