Take a moment to become still, aware of God’s presence, and then pray:
O Emmanuel, God-with-us, You know intimately the trouble and heartache of our world and of our lives. Breathe the quiet calm of Your Spirit over us, and ready our hearts to listen. Silence every voice but Your voice so that we might hear words of life and love. Amen
Since, then, we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
“One train wreck after another” is how a friend told me his feeling about the year. I have to agree, as it has been an exhausting time of pandemic, endless variants, the Taliban, civil unrest and uncertainty about the future. But these times remind me of something I read years ago in Scott Peck’s impactful book, The Road Less Traveled: “The truth is that our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy, or unfulfilled. For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers.”
Moments of discomfort, angst, and grief often serve to draw us closer to Christ who came down to dwell among us. Today’s scripture urges us to turn to Jesus in troubled times, “so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
The incarnate Son of God understands our struggles and sorrows as no angel ever could. In fact, today’s scripture declares that the Son of God “in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin.” From an obscure manger to a criminal’s cross “Jesus experienced all the drives and ambiguities of bodily existence; from thirst, sex, hunger and need for sleep, to doubt, fear, and longing, suffering, and finally death itself.” (Catherine Mowry Lacugna, God For Us: The Trinity and Christian Life)
God came down and dwelt among us so that He might experience what we experience in order to help us. Jesus was made fully human, not God in masquerade; He knows all the troubles we face and temptations we endure. Perhaps our most dangerous temptation is to think we can handle temptation on our own.
Jesus gleaned knowledge of how to help us as “He took our infirmities and bore our diseases” (Matthew 8:17) and became “a man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity” (Isaiah 53:3). There were no depths of despair and darkness but that Jesus went deeper, “yet without sin”. When Dietrich Bonhoeffer was in a Nazi prison awaiting execution, he wrote of Christ as our ever-present Helper:
“God had seen the misery of this world and had come Himself in order to help. Now He was there, not as a mighty one, but in the obscurity of humanity, where there is sinfulness, weakness, wretchedness, and misery in the world.”(Bonhoeffer, God Is in the Manger: Reflections on Advent and Christmas)
The risen, ascended and glorified Jesus has not stopped being fully human or “unable to sympathize with our weakness.” He now sits enthroned in the heavens as our High Priest who is fully human and fully God, serving on our behalf. Old Scots theologian William Milligan describes Jesus in glory ready to hear our cry:
“Even at the right hand of God He is still the man Christ Jesus. The feelings, the emotions, the sympathies of His heart are exactly what they were when He welcomed the first symptoms of contrition in the woman who came to Him in Simon’s house, or when He wept over the unbelief of Jerusalem. Even now He would leave no penitent uncheered, no mourner uncomforted, no friend unloved, no little child unblessed.”(William Milligan, The Ascension and Heavenly Priesthood of our Lord)
In these troubled times, we can know that God is on our side. “All things have been created through him and for him” (Colossians 1:16), yet He dwelt among us so that He could help us. On heaven’s throne He is still the Jesus who gathered children to His lap, touched the unclean, and forgave the adulteress. Jesus understands our situation, our struggles, our problems, and invites us to go boldly to Him “so that we may receive mercy and grace to help in time of need.” Jesus dwelt among us and still does.
Think back over the past 24 hours and note when you experienced a “high” and a “low”. Share with God how the humanity of Jesus might speak to you in what you experienced.