The same nagging disappointment that struck turn-of-time Jerusalem is the one that still troubles us today - this Jesus is said to have come into the world, but, it seems, nothing has changed.
People still hate each other. Things break. Contracts are broken, covenants torn. Weather still goes wild, flowers wilt, and no lion has ever lain down with a lamb (although there are some amazingly cute stories gone viral of unlikely animal friends). We look around our world and see the brokenness, the woundedness, the hurt, and we cannot help but wonder about the hope. Immanuel?
Surely, God is not with us.
Even for the Christian, this seems to be the ache. We pray, read the Bible, and go to church, but the God we serve has become little more than a star in the sky or a babe in a manger; He is of no practical good to us. We are either hoping that one day, we will be guided to the place where He dwells or that He will grow up in the developing revelation before our very eyes. Very few, if any, of us are willing to actually go to the manger and hold Him. Very few, if any, of us are willing to listen to His cry.
And cry, He does. This is, I think, what we so easily miss in all of this. We hear, ever so faintly, His persistent cry, and we think this must mean He is as helpless and hopeless as He was that Christmas morn. Our disappointment cannot be hidden. Here is this God who has supposedly come into the world, but nothing has changed except that He has added His cry to ours.
This God of ours must be of no good at all.
But it is because we can hear His cry that we know that He is here. It is the very paradox of our Lord. He is present among us not only as a God, but as a brother; not only as a Father, but as a friend. It is difficult for us to listen to the cry, particularly in a world where we are so convinced that any good and powerful God would act more like the Wizard of Oz than the Suffering Servant, pulling levers and using smoke and mirrors to at least create the effect on the world that He's promised. But we know this story. We know when this is true, it is not long before someone pulls back the curtain and reveals this false god for who he is not.
Only in the Suffering Servant do we see who He truly is. Only in the manger do we come to know Him. Only in His cry do we hear His heart. And it is only because we hear this cry that we know that He truly is with us.
Were He not, the silence would be deafening.
A star in the sky, a babe in a manger - it's easy for us to sit back and ask, What's it all mean? It's easy for us to say that maybe it means nothing. But that is so much not the case. This means everything. It means that God is faithful. It means that God is true. It means that God delivers on His promises, keeps His covenant, and loves His creation. It means that God has done amazing things and continues to do them. It means that the revelation is developing before our very eyes. It means that the Word has truly become flesh. It means...that God is with us.