The prompt for this year’s Advent Reflections is Emmanuel, God with us. As I asked God what to share this year, this story came to mind.
Our story began at a women’s retreat just outside of the city. My friend and I needed to go home early, so we packed up and left just after dinner. This was before the ubiquitousness of smartphones and weather apps, and I’m not even sure we were conscious that a storm was rolling in. I can’t remember whether snow was falling when we left, but I can say that in less than ten minutes, we were driving down an unfamiliar road in the middle of a white out.
There’s a lot I can’t remember about this incident. Things like which month it was, how many babies we had in the car with us (and whether they were my babies or my friend's), and even who was driving. But I do remember the fear, the isolation, and then the sudden PRESENCE of the Living God.
At first, we could still see just enough to get by. But then, as the snow fell heavier, not only were any tracks erased in front of us, but visibility dropped to almost nothing. At one point, we tried opening up the doors to see if we could tell that we were still on the road. It was terrifying.
And then, just when we thought it couldn’t get any worse, our car shuddered to a halt. We were stuck. My friend and I tried everything we could, but to no use. Because visibility was so low and we had no idea where we were on the road, getting out of the car felt incredibly unsafe (and stupid. We were trying really hard not be stupid since we were both moms). So I called my mom (I had signal, yay!), and asked her to pray. Because what else do you do when you are stuck and in danger, without any hope?
Even as my mom prayed, my friend and I felt hopeless. Was God going to answer our prayers? Could He do anything about us being stuck in the snow? Prayer felt like that thing you do to say you did it, without any hope that anything would actually change.
But it did.
As my mom prayed, suddenly our car moved without any human intervention. We were unstuck. The snow eased a bit, and within a very short time, stopped entirely. Soon, it was as if the storm had never even happened. We continued the rest of the way home without any challenges at all.
Emmanuel, God with us, The Hope of Glory. These are more than just words we sing at Christmas, more than a Scripture reading, more than embossed golden script in a holiday card. The Presence of the Living God is with us powerfully. Not just during an Encounter service, or when everything is going right or when someone prays over us. No, God is with us when we are alone, stranded, in the dark and in danger. Emmanuel means that we are never alone, never without hope, never truly lost.
My prayer for you today (and always) is that no matter your situation, no matter your circumstances, you will be filled with hope. May you experience the comfort, the presence and the miraculous intervention of Emmanuel today. We are not alone, because God put on flesh, and came to dwell among us. Thank you, Father, for the gift of your Son and Holy Spirit.
Written by: Grace Van Bruwaene