I've been thinking about the name Immanuel a lot lately. God With Us. It's one of my favorite names for Jesus, though I don't usually think about it much except around Christmastime when it shows up in so many great Christmas carols. My favorite (along with "Little Drummer Boy") is "O Come, O Come Emmanuel." It's such a haunting song for me, full of longing, ache and love. The melody lodges deep in my soul and won't let go. The opening lines are among the best in the piece:
O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.
Things have been pretty hectic for some weeks now at the Warden estate (and by "estate," I am of course referring to the 80 ft X 120 ft patch of earth that encompasses my personal kingdom). I've been passing myself going and coming, and feeling this deepening awareness of disconnect somewhere inside me. I've felt my soul stretched thin and crisp, like paper left too long in the sun.
Finally, thankfully, the paper cracked. It happened late one night back in August when I needed to sleep but didn't feel like sleeping, so I went out to the front porch to sit on the bench and just watch the night breeze shift the trees a while. I became vaguely aware of God's presence with me, and the words just spilled out of my mouth:
"I need you to be real again."
The tears came immediately. At first I didn't know why I was crying. It's hard to get to the bottom of your heart and really see what's there. But I stayed with it, looking, and present, and slowly came to understand that I was starving for the love of God. Not the belief that he loves me; I have faith for that. I was starving for the experience of his love. I was dying to be loved on by God. I needed Immanuel. God With Me. Here. Now.
And just like that, he came. Boy, did he come!
Of course, truth is, he never left. How easily I forget that "God With Us" isn't just Jesus does from time to time. It's who he is.