During the Advent season, that 40-day season of preparation for Christmas, we are reminded that God is our Emmanuel – God is with us. This is one of main things we celebrate every year – that God loves us so much that God came to be with us in the person of Jesus.
We also celebrate the fact that God is still with us. Jesus promises us at the end of Matthew’s Gospel that he will be with us always. The Holy Spirit is God’s ongoing, enduring presence with us.
But what does this mean in our day to day lives? How do we know that God is with us? How do we get a sense of God’s presence? These are questions that people have asked me, and these are questions that I have asked myself. Sometimes, it can be hard to be aware of how God is with us. Sometimes, we may struggle to see God’s presence.
This past week, I was doing some devotional reading, and I found something that I think helps us meditate on what it means that God is with us and how that can look in our everyday lives. I am quoting here from the 20th century Christian mystic, Howard Thurman. This is No. 24 “God is With Me” from his book Meditations of the Heart (Beacon Press, Boston, 1953. pg. 48).
“God is with me, in the sense that He is the Creator and the Sustainer of life. This is a part of my general thought and experience. There is something so big and vast about God as Creator and Sustainer of all of life that it is hard for me to feel that I am included.
God is with me. All around me are certain expressions of orderliness, of beauty, of wonder and delight. The regularity of sunrise and sunset, the fragile loveliness of a wisp of cloud fringed with silver, the wonder of day dawning and the delight of companionship – all these are His handiwork.
God is with me. Again and again I am stirred by some experience of tenderness, some simple act of gratuitous kindness moving from one man to another, some quiet deed of courage, wisdom or sacrifice or some striking movement of unstudied joy that bursts forth in the contagion of merry laughter. I know God is with me.
God is with me. Always there is the persistent need for some deep inner assurance, some whisper in my heart, some stirring of the spirit within me – that renews, re-creates and steadies. Then whatever betides of light or shadow, I can look out on life with quiet eyes.
God is with me.”
I encourage us to meditate on these wise words as we seek to know God’s presence with us. I also encourage you to buy Thurman’s book! It has many more wonderful passages on Christian living and faithful discipleship.