Several years ago, there was a shipwreck. Only one of the crew survived, and after several hours floating around in the ocean, he washed up on the shore of a small, uninhabited island. He was exhausted and without food or resources; he feared for his life. He cried out to God to save him. Every day he scanned the horizon searching, hoping, and praying for help to come. Finally, he managed to build a rough hut to give him shelter from the harsh elements.
One day, as the man returned to the hut after hunting for food, he was stung with grief to see his little shelter engulfed in flames and a cloud of smoke. The worst had happened, and the man fell to his knees in tears.
But early the next day, as the man woke from a restless sleep, he saw a ship on the horizon. Within an hour, the ship drew in and rescued him. He asked the crew, “How did you know I was here?”
They replied, “We saw your smoke signal.”
Immanuel—God is with us always
Maybe the difficulty you have now or have been through is the smoke signal that will lead to great blessing. That was certainly true for Mary. As she took the difficult journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem, God was with her. And then in a humble stable in Bethlehem, she gave birth to “Immanuel”—God with us. Through her adversity, Mary came to experience a great blessing. And because of Immanuel, the same is possible for us.
God’s greatest work often arises out of the journeys we don’t want to take. God has a way of wringing good from disappointment, suffering and pain, because God is with us every step of the way. I believe that with every fiber of my being, even when it seems like everything is going wrong. It is what gives me hope, and it is what I celebrate this Christmas, every Christmas. Immanuel, God with us.
Like the shipwrecked man clinging to what he thought was safety, what are you clinging to that it you let go could bring you into God’s presence?
How is Jesus giving you hope for 2017?
What have you learned this Advent season?