Ecclesiastes and Emmanuel: God with us in all times and seasons

The time when love came to earth. Love not in gifts of gold, frankincense or myrrh. Love not in the adoration of the angels, or the presence of the shepherds. Love not even in the parental pride at a new born son.

But love in a God who came to be with us. It feels like that is the only refrain you can hear this year. Maybe it is the horrific shooting in Connecticut that lingers in the shadows, casting doubt on any joy that could be shared. Maybe we have lost our own loved ones in unpublicised tragedy. Perhaps it is the difficult relationships, awkward lives we lead. Maybe we have been rejected from jobs we wanted. Maybe life is harder than we ever hoped it would.

The message of Emmanuel. A constant refrain that does not fade.

The first time I ever spoke in any kind of church service was my Granddad’s funeral. It was a few years ago, and like now it was the run up to Christmas. This tragedy, an expected one unlike the Newtown shootings, was tinged with similar sadness. Someone who you loved dearly would no longer be with you.

My Granddad had lived a long life, and senile dementia had made his last few years especially hard. When I spoke with my Mum of plans for the funeral I had the sudden and definite sense that I wanted to speak. I had never done anything like this before, my sister was the prodigy preacher in our youth church.

When I moved house a couple of months ago I found the typed text interspersed with scribbles of red biro telling the tale of last minute edits. It was Ecclesiasties and Emmanuel. The times that come and go and the God that is always with us.

I was nervous as I spoke. A Methodist chapel in South Yorkshire is not my normal church environment. A congregation of family some of whom are not Christian, and members of the local community with whom he had attended each week until his final years made it too hard.

There was a cycle of reinforcing theology that pushed me forward. God was with me as I spoke of God being with us.

Speaking in public isn’t something that comes naturally to me. I am not confident in my voice, I am reluctant with my words, unsure if people will like or agree with what I say. I am always hesitant when I have to do it, even when I choose to the reluctance does not go away.

Unsurprisingly many of life’s challenges come with such a hesitancy, an uncertainty of whether to proceed, whether the goal is worth the cost.

But sometimes there is also a knowledge that this is what you need to do. So you get on and do it. There are moments in life when you are able to push aside the rationality and reason and do what you know you have to do.

My wrong turns do not become any righter, but I slowly learn that I have a God and a Father who does not abandon. Not even in the hardest of times. Not even in my most recalcitrant of ways.

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