Experience God Being With You This Advent Season

The season of Advent is here. For some this season brings joy, busyness, and countless activities connecting with family and friends. For some this season brings loneliness, grief, and a desire to skip the whole holiday thing. And for you it might be some of both. But most important, for all of us Advent is an opportunity to experience God being with you.

Being with. Being fully present with another and experiencing them being fully present with you. You seeing them and knowing they see you. That’s a precious and even rare commodity in our fractured world. How easy it is to be “here but not here.”

Think back in your own life. In your family growing up, did you get the sense that either of your parents “got” you? Even if they were generally well-meaning, your parents may not have been truly attuned to who you were, your needs, thoughts, feelings. Or perhaps they discounted you or gave you the nonverbal message that you had to be someone different from who you really were in order to be acceptable.

If you’re married now, does your spouse “get” you? Hopefully they do. But I hear from so many married people who feel lonely. What about friends? Coworkers? Church acquaintances? Who is with you? The lack of such an experience is a big part of the epidemic of mental health problems in our culture.

And who are you with? How able are you to offer to someone else the experience of being seen and known?

So, this Advent season, let’s make it a time of being with, especially with God.

God With Us

When the angel told Joseph that Mary was going to have a baby “from the Holy Spirit,” Matthew comments, “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: ”Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us)” (Matthew 1:20, 22-23).

God with us.

Throughout the Old Testament God promised to be with His people, yet from humans’ perspective there always seemed to be a disconnect. Some responded to moments of His presence with something like, “You see me!” (Such as Genesis 16:13, Psalm 139:23). The promise of God coming to be with them was precious. (See Isaiah 7:14)

And then Jesus shows up. Truly God with us. God, who spoke the worlds into existence, now a flesh-and-blood human who, as John says, “we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands” (1 John 1:1).

Imagine being John or one of the other disciples. Jesus has been with them. They’ve eaten together. They’ve felt His body. Their physical eyes and physical ears have been seeing and hearing God in the flesh. They’ve laughed together and wept together. He knows them and they know Him. And now He’s going away!

Jesus doesn’t tell them to “buck up and be a man.” He senses their grief at the prospect of being without Him. And He promises them the Holy Spirit – the means through which He will still be with them. “You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you” (John 14:17-18).

God With You?

Reflect on your life with God. Do you experience Him being with you? Or is it more like some ethereal force out there in the universe and your feeling is, “God, what have you done for me lately?”

We as humans were made to be connected, to be with. (See Genesis 2:18) Something happens in the neuronal pathways in your brain when you experience someone being with you, seeing you, knowing you. That goes for your relationship with people, and also for your relationship with God.

This Advent season is again an invitation to experience being with. Here are a couple suggestions for how to do that.

Look for opportunities to be with people. Not everyone in your world is capable of being with, but look for those who are, or who might be. You might sense that as you join a child in looking with wonder at all that is Christmas. There might be a moment someone invites you into a conversation that is just a little bit safer than normal. Someone asks a question and it just might be an open door for a bit more connection.

Pause. Choose to be present. Take one step closer. Allow your heart to say yes, if even for just a moment.

Create an opportunity for others. Every single one of us has people who need us to be with them. A couple days ago I called a friend who is the full-time caretaker of her disabled husband and just listened to her talk for 30 minutes. Perhaps you have a child or grandchild who would welcome your undivided attention. Or there’s someone you know who is lonely or overwhelmed or insecure.

Notice. Get out of yourself long enough to be present. Offer the gift, the ministry, of your real presence.

Experience God being with you. It takes getting still to experience God being with you. Be intentional in creating opportunities for that during the Advent season. Read an Advent devotional. Stop and truly listen to a Christmas carol. Watch the flame of a Christmas candle.

Put your sense of “badness”, your anxiety, your grief, to the side just long enough to be present. Allow God to be present with you. No begging or pleading. Just with you.

Let the Christ-child be born in your heart anew this year.

The experience of God being with you will change something in you.

Perhaps that’s what Advent is really all about.

Your Turn: What does “God with us” mean to you? How will you plan to be open to experiencing God being with you this season? Leave a comment below.

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