"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 was so unbelievably frustrated! I had been expecting something in the mail that was beyond being late. I had patiently waited, each day going to my front door, only to find another day had passed without the much anticipated object on my front step. It was in the days before the internet, so I couldn't get on my computer to track the package easily. Instead, I had to talk to four recorded messages that could not easily understand my voice prompts before I got put on hold for fifteen minutes. Oh yeah, and this was NOT a toll-free call, but was eating up my money by the second!
I finally heard a human voice on the phone. I told of my dilemma (of course, with a very Christ-like attitude--not!) and asked the person on the line to track my package. After being put on hold for another ten minutes, the woman told me that the package had been delivered over a week ago. I sat there and argued with her for a while. Then she said something that appeared maddeningly redundant to me:
"Ma'am, what sort of a package were you expecting?"
I rolled my eyes in disgust. She should know, shouldn't she? After all, the missing item was from her company! After a deep breath to keep my temper in check, I tried to tell her, as calmly as I could, what sort of package I had been looking for. I gave her the dimensions of the box I expected it to be in. That is when she said,
"Oh, ma'am, that's where your problem is. It wasn't supposed to come in a box at all. It is small enough to fit in an envelope that is compact enough to fit in your mail box. Do you have a pile of mail that you haven't gone through yet?"
I vaguely remembered an odd-looking envelope that I had assumed was just junk mail. I asked her if she could hang on. She patiently said that she would. I ran to get the overlooked envelope and ripped it open. Lying there was my desired item. It had been there all along, but because it didn't come in the box I had been looking for, I had incorrectly assumed that it hadn't yet arrived. I returned sheepishly to the phone, begging her to forgive me for my short temper. She graciously laughed and said she was just doing her job and even went so far as to empathize with my frustration over the overlooked package.
My darling girlfriends, have we mistakenly thought our Jesus hasn't arrived? Long before Christ was born in a barn in Bethlehem, the prophet Isaiah wrote about what He would look like:
Who has believed our message?
To whom has the Lord revealed his powerful arm?
My servant grew up in the Lord’s presence like a tender green shoot,
like a root in dry ground.
There was nothing beautiful or majestic about his appearance,
nothing to attract us to him.
He was despised and rejected—
a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief.
We turned our backs on him and looked the other way.
He was despised, and we did not care.
Yet it was our weaknesses he carried;
it was our sorrows that weighed him down.
And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God,
a punishment for his own sins!
But he was pierced for our rebellion,
crushed for our sins.
He was beaten so we could be whole.
He was whipped so we could be healed.
All of us, like sheep, have strayed away.
We have left God’s paths to follow our own.
Yet the Lord laid on him
the sins of us all.
Isaiah 53:1-6 (NLT)
Nothing beautiful or majestic to attract me to Him? Despised and rejected--do I really want to be associated with Someone like that? Someone who was pierced, beaten, and whipped? Could this really be my Savior? I, like so many others, have mistakenly thought God the Father would have a different plan. Am I looking for my Jesus in a pretty package? Does He receive my rejection because He hasn't ridden in on the white horse and saved the day to my satisfaction? Am I disappointed with Him??
Yes, my heart cries! This year has been full of crushings for me. Full of unmet expectations and disappointed hopes. I have thought, foolishly, to look for Him in the sunshine, not realizing that my Savior is a Man of sorrows Who is acquainted with the deepest form of grief I can imagine. Why is He acquainted so intimately with my grief? Because He has made it His own!! The bitter anguish that has come from the depths of my soul, the tears that have soaked my pillow unseen by human eyes, have not gone unnoticed by my God! I just have thought so! The deepest glory has taken place when I have been most unaware of its presence. And my heart has sadly overlooked what has slowly become so obvious to me, what I could not see until now.
"In all their distress he too was distressed,
and the angel of his presence saved them.
In his love and mercy he redeemed them;
he lifted them up and carried them
all the days of old." Isaiah 63:9
Before I called, before I knew my own need, before I experienced the groanings and anguish of life this year, He heard me and sent the angel of His presence. Why? Because in all my distress, my Abba, too, was distressed. I was looking for Him to show up in a different way. I thought He would come in a beautiful and recognizable package. Not one that was so hideous and wrenching to my heart that I could never think to believe He could be inside of it.
Oh, my sweet sisters, OUR JESUS IS IMMANUEL! Immanuel means, "God with us." He is always present because He exalts nothing higher than His word and His name (Psalm 138). He cannot lie to us. He will never leave us or forsake us. We have just been looking for Immanuel according to our own idea of what He should look like. But that does not change the fact that He has been there all along and will continue to be.
Go get your Bible--your love letter from our God. Let's not let those living, breathing promises sit unopened as they may have this past year. Let's open our book of hope because no matter what happens, our God is with us!
Jesus, retrain my eyes! May You not be my overlooked Treasure anymore. You are with me always, even to the end of the world. Let me find You where You are, not where I want You to be.