Wednesday, December 23, 2015

O Emmanuel

December 23, 2015
Reflection by Jane Hale

"Therefore the Lord himself will give you this sign: the virgin shall be with child, and bear a son, and shall name him Emmanuel” (Isaiah 7:14)

Several years ago, I took a teen group on pilgrimage to Grand Teton National Park.  We camped and hiked in breathtaking mountain forests that were thick with buzzing wildlife, sparkling mountain lakes, and lodgepole pines that shot clear up to the sky.  To this crew of New Englanders, the vast expanse of forest around the Tetons felt like an Eden of sorts, a thin space where God seemed as close as the morning mist, or the mountain breeze.  We spent a good portion of most days hiking, and as we did, we could sense that every breath was infused with holiness.  One day, however, the trail that was usually bathed in lush greens, lead us into a strange and unfamiliar landscape. A forest fire had utterly ravaged the entire mountainside several years before, leaving nothing but a vast expanse of charred earth and branchless, blackened tree skeletons in its wake. It appeared, at first glance, to be a wasteland, and we sat together in silence, our hearts heavy with the burden of such indiscriminate destruction and loss of life.  But as we sat, we began to notice something we hadn’t seen at first glance.  There were tiny shoots of tender green pine trees emerging from the crevices between the charred, felled trees and rocks:  a sign of new life—tender, bright green, and shining— in the most unexpected of places. 

So it is with Christ:  a shoot from the great stump of Jesse; a peasant, infant king; compassionate companion to the outcast and oppressed; the crucified One that death could not contain; God-With-Us.

Where might you find Christ?

O come, o come Emmanuel.  Help us to seek you not only in the majestic and thin spaces, but also in the unexpected places, the hidden places, even the places that seem most devastatingly God-forsaken.   For there, we will find you—tender, bright green, and shining— a humble, and yet glorious sign among the peoples that God is truly with us, even now, ready to lead us into new and unending life. Amen.

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