Physically Present God in Socially Distant Church

Scripture Reading: Matthew 1-3

Song of the Day: God With Us by All Sons and Daughters

Focus Verses: Matthew 1:23b, 3:16

The first chapter of Matthew can be a tough one to get through. It mostly covers the genealogy of Jesus, which let’s face it…can be pretty boring. The names are long and difficult to pronounce, so sometimes we just skip right over them. But since we have some extra time this week, take a moment and really read through the names. Have you ever really stopped to think about how many people came before Jesus? Do you think about all the things that had to happen to make it possible for him to be born? Every name in that genealogy represents a story, a set of challenges, worries, victories, joys, failures, and laughs. Each person in that genealogy faced different problems of their day, just as we face new and unique issues in our own time (hello finstagrams, online homework, and global pandemics). We are not alone in hardship. We are a part of a long lineage of people who faced challenges. 

But when Jesus was born, something changed. Humanity wasn’t just united to each other, but God literally came down to earth to be with them. In Chapter 2, Jesus came to earth to walk among us and be God, physically present and near. Henri Nouwen said, “God not only wants to be a God for us, but also a God with us. That happens in Jesus, the Emmanuel who walks with us.”

By the time you get to Matthew 3, it has been 400 years since the nation of Israel had heard from a true prophet. John the Baptist spoke truths from God that the people had not heard for a long time. He said, “I baptize with water but the one who comes after me is more powerful than I…he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” Then, Jesus comes onto the scene and it is a big moment. This powerful one, the one that John the Baptist and Isaiah prophesied about, needs to be baptized. When Jesus asks John the Baptist for help, he is stunned to say the least. He doesn’t feel worthy. 

But then something magical happens. John the Baptist steps up, baptizes Jesus, and the spirit of God comes down from the heavens. Now, the people have not only heard from a prophet, but they have heard the voice of God the Father, felt the presence of God the spirit and seen the face of God the son. In this one moment, God reveals himself in all new ways. God makes himself known to a world that needs him.

It is important to remember that we are not alone in these hard days, these boring days, these scary days. God is with us, always. God wants to meet with us each day, in new and fresh ways. As we navigate a socially distanced church may we remember that we love a present God.

Prayer: God, Immanuel, Jesus who walks beside me, help me to lean us you during this time of uncertainty and to seek your guidance. God we are humbled when we get to see you, when you shine your light on us. Help us to remember that you are always nearby in our hearts, in our spirits, and in our loved ones. Guide us in your grace, let your spirit fall on us, and meet us when we call out to you. Amen. 

Photo by Simon Migaj on Unsplash

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