I’ve spent a fair amount of time with my cousin and his family and he is doing really well right now, and while we live in the present and enjoy these good days as the gift they are, it’s impossible to ignore entirely what comes next.
An old acquaintance of mine who is an English professor comes into town today from the other side of the country because her father is ill. Her laptop is in the shop and she still has all her grading from the end of the semester still to do. When I offered to lend her my laptop, I know one burden was lifted from her, but it doesn’t change why she is here.
And Sunday night we sat around a dinner table with our church group talking about technology and media and the possibility of using images in worship and how and why and our pastor received a phone call and there had been a death and she was needed. And several people in the group knew the family well. And it turns out there are “suspicious circumstances.” I know it’s part of her job, but she was drained already and there’d been another death the week before and she had owned earlier in the evening that she was grieving the anniversary of her own mother’s death the third Sunday in Advent. So I grieve and pray for the family, but I also grieve and pray for the pastor who walks beside them, who shares the burdens until they become her own. And I hope she has people who are sharing her burdens.
And I’m sure there are a thousand other stories that each of us knows right now.
And then, all through the lectionary texts for this week, we have Emmanuel. God with us. We walk with my cousin and his family; we do what we can for old acquaintances we may not be emotionally close to, but whose pain we still feel; we pray for the church family and uphold the pastor who must set aside her own pain to take the burdens of others. But so does God. He sent his son to be God with us, to walk beside us, to share our burdens, to know and understand in a real way what those burdens are. Emmanuel, God with us. And I guess that makes it possible to walk through the darkness. God walks with us, and that God is made manifest in Emmanuel, but also in each of us as we walk with one another. Or something like that.