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On The Upper Room Discourse Re-Release For Lent 2024

First Sunday of Advent- November 27

PREPARATION: lighting the candle and readying myself to listen.


Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfil what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet:
“Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel”, which means, “God is with us.” When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife.
Matthew 1:18-24

“Are you with me?” Have you ever asked someone if they were “with” you? If so, you were likely asking for more than their geographical proximity or GPS coordinates. You were wanting to know if they were “with” you, to support and to help you. When I was a hospital chaplain, I routinely asked patients if they had someone “with” them, wanting to know if they had someone to encourage and hold their hand.

In these daily readings we will seek to unfold the meanings of the preposition “with” in the wondrous name, Immanuel, “God is WITH us.” There is so much more here than we might imagine. By taking to Himself the name Immanuel, God declares that He comes to share with us His very life and glory. He is forever God with us and we with Him!

Take for instance, the depth of meaning in the Hebrew preposition, im, (“with”) that begins Jesus’ name, IM-manu-el. The standard Hebrew lexicon shows the first meaning of im as “fellowship and companionship”, followed by “actions done jointly”, “a common lot”, “equality or resemblance”, “the custody or care”, “friendly with” and “in one’s consciousness”. (Francis Brown, Samuel Driver, Charles Briggs, Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament)

With the meaning of the Hebrew preposition im, you can perhaps appreciate something of the wonder of God’s unfathomable announcement that He is Immanuel, God is with us. Here is self-giving love, mutuality, sharing of life, and communion. God comes to be with us right where He finds us, and not where we ought to be.

Behind the birth of baby Immanuel stands God’s unconditional promise: “You shall be my people, and I will be your God” (Jeremiah 30:22). Whenever God’s faithless and straying people faced trouble and trial, God spoke to them fresh words of assurance that He would be “with” them (Leviticus 26:12; Jeremiah 32:38; Ezekiel 37:27). As a doubtful Moses trembled at God’s command to stand up to Pharaoh, God promised him, “I will be with (im) you” (Exodus 3:12). God’s pledge to be “with” His people is invariably followed by assurance that they have no reason to fear. Consider a few of the following instances in Scripture:

Deuteronomy 31:8: It is the LORD who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.

1 Chronicles 28:20: Be strong and of good courage, and act. Do not be afraid or dismayed; for the LORD God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you.

2 Chronicles 20:17: This battle is not for you to fight; take your position, stand still, and see the victory of the LORD on your be- half, O Judah and Jerusalem. Do not fear or be dismayed; tomor- row go out against them, and the LORD will be with you.

Psalm 23:4: Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me.

Isaiah 41:10: Do not fear, for I am with you, do not be afraid, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.

The New Testament letter to the Hebrews picks up on many of God’s promises to be with His people enduring trial and persecution: “For he has said, ‘I will never leave you or forsake you.’ So we can say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can anyone do to me?’” (Hebrews 13:5-6, quoting Joshua 1:5, Psalm 118:6).

Today we hear the first words of God’s messenger angel to frightened shepherds as God’s message for us this Christmas: “Do not be afraid; for see I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people” (Luke 2:10). This wondrous, matchless name, Immanuel, is God’s ready watchword as we face spiritual battles, economic turmoil, civil unrest and world upheaval. It has been a difficult and troubled year, but we are not afraid. Immanuel has come! God is with us!

CONVERSATION: I talk with God about the thoughts and feelings stirring within.

REST: I take time to be present to Immanuel who is present to me.

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