I got my fractured and chipped front tooth fixed the other week. It was a rather painless process actually: in an out of the chair in 20 minutes, not even any needles, and the chip is gone, the fracture unnoticeable and the tooth feels stronger than it has for a while. I’m back biting into apples (and other less healthy crunchy things!) without a worry. In fact, the fix has been so subtle that even though it is my front tooth, not one person has commented or noticed. I was quite amazed at how easy the whole thing was and wondered why I had waited so long to get it done.
But I’ve since been thinking – wouldn’t it be great if the broken places and cracks in our hearts and relationships were as easy to cover, as quick to repair, as painless and instant as my front tooth filler? But actually that’s just not reality, is it? Those broken parts can take a lot longer to repair and even then can leave a noticeable mark. And Christmas time can be a season when these marks rise to the surface, making even the scars we thought had healed up weep or become raw again. Grief for loved ones more profound, regret over relationships gone sour, loneliness for a missing connection, broken trust felt more keenly over the festive season when families and friends are supposed to enjoy one another, when others seem to have it all together.
As I’ve been thinking about that this week, I’ve kept being drawn back to this name of Jesus we remember at Christmas – that he has come as Immanuel, a name which means God is with us. At Christmas we celebrate because God himself has come to live with us. God has come close and shared in our humanity in all of its ups and downs. He knows the darkness of grief and loss, of trust broken, of relationships strained, of loneliness or rejection. Our story, though each unique, is one which God knows intimately; not from a distance and not from a textbook, but personally because he is Immanuel, God with us.
That Jesus is our Immanuel doesn’t give a quick fix to our chipped hearts and broken places. It’s not like my tooth-filler, a patch to cover over the issue. No, Jesus our Immanuel is so much greater than that – he doesn’t cover over our wounds but he does hold us through them, he does comfort and carry and bring transformation and healing. He will restore, he will make whole, he will make new, he will bring hope and light and life, and he’s working right now to do just that. And we can cry out to him because he knows, he’s lived it. Not only that, we cry out to him because he is God with us, powerful, able, willing and enough.
Let us seek to care as well as we can for each other in this season, knowing that for some it is an especially challenging time. And let us all marvel again, be comforted again, and draw near again to our Immanuel come that first Christmas, our God come to live with us.
God bless you and keep you this Christmas.