This season of Advent I have been pondering the word “Emmanuel.” Of course we all know the Christmas song “O Come O Come Emmanuel” and you probably learned at some point along the way, like I did, that the translation is “God with us.” I wanted to delve a little deeper into this meaning which led me to discover that it first appears in the Book of Isaiah (7:14) as a sign that God will protect the House of David. Then we hear it again in Matthew 1:23 “Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means “God is with us.”
I find it interesting that these two Biblical references refer to protection and being with, being together, being partners. Because isn’t that what the promise of Jesus is really all about? Protecting us from harm and evil (how many times do we hear “do not be afraid?”) and knowing that no matter what, we are not alone (I am with you until the end of time). But what does this mean IRL (In Real Life), in our ordinary, everyday lives?
For me, my goal at the start of every day is to pray my way through the day, bookended on both sides of the day with my morning and evening prayer ritual. Those rituals are fairly easy to maintain, as I set aside time to do them, which is more often than not, sacred time that doesn’t get pushed out of the way by other things. But where is Jesus with me and protecting me in the midst of my day? I thought about a recent typical day, if there is such a thing, and here is where Jesus showed up for me:
● In receiving a call from a real person at the IRS to discuss a tax matter from 2016 which I am desperately trying to successfully resolve. I know…I know…sounds weird to say I found Jesus in the IRS but it’s true. Just being able to know my case is being looked at by a real human being with a voice and phone number felt somehow as though Jesus is hearing my pleas to be with me in this matter and protect me.
● A friend agreed to meet me at Home Depot to shop for some home improvement materials. This may sound rather mundane to most, but I truly loathe home improvement projects, partly because I know absolutely zero about doing them and thus just knowing this knowledgeable friend was accompanying me reminded me of Jesus’ presence in my life.
● Receiving an email from someone who I thought maybe was going MIA on me related to a financial matter. Just knowing that she was not MIA and was going to fulfill and continue her financial obligation to me felt like a huge relief, protection and sense of togetherness.
● Averting a car accident due to my blind spot, bright sun and rain, all at the same time. Phew! Yes, most certainly Jesus was with me and protecting me. There is nothing like the relief that comes with being kept safe, especially on the road. This was definitely an occasion to thank Jesus in the moment for my safety.
● Receiving a phone call from a contractor regarding said home improvement project. Again, not a huge thing to most people, but I really didn’t want to be ghosted by this contractor because I need him and just knowing that he was available to do my project felt like divine intervention.
I hope I haven’t bored you with the mundaneness of my daily activities. Truly I have felt Emmanuel in all of these above moments and so many others. Yes, yes, yes! This Advent season may we all say with more feverance “O Come O Come Emmanuel.” We need you Jesus, now more than ever, to come and be with us, protect us, love us, heal us, hold us and whisper in our ears that you are here. Amen.
Ellen Kelly is a spiritual director. She earned a MTS from The Jesuit School of Theology