God With Us


In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

—John 1:1-5 (NRSVUE)

In this community, we talk a lot about before and afters. There is a life before. In the Before Times, jokes might have come easily and you might be quick to laugh. A time when it felt easy to make plans far off in the future and hope was easy to come by. 

And there is a life after. Which might be what you are experiencing today. 

The first Christmas since the divorce or after the kids started their own family traditions. The first Christmas with one less stocking to fill, or perhaps realizing the perfect gift didn’t actually fix the broken relationship. Your house may be lacking the joy (or people) you had hoped for. Maybe today you woke up and decided to go back to sleep because living in the after is hard work (we understand and we are so sorry). No matter what you are experiencing, today, we also recognize a different before and after. 

Advent is a season of divine anticipation. A before marked by waiting with bated breath for Jesus to be born, for the world to be made right. And Christmas is the ultimate after. One marked by realized joy and celebration. As we finally place baby Jesus in our nativity scenes and light the Christ candle on our Advent wreaths, we are reminded that Jesus’ birth means that God is with us, the Emmanuel. 

God is with us in our before and afters. God is with us in our pain and joy. God is with us during our beginnings and endings. God is with us when we find the courage to hope for a bigger story even in our own impossible situations. God is with us when we are surprised by the joy that embraces our sorrow and loss. God is with us when we feel a peace that passes all understanding, even when our lives have come undone. God is with us even when our circumstances don’t change. God is with us when we realize God’s love for us, so much that God sent Jesus to us. 

The best news is that the love, peace, joy, and hope that comes with God’s presence doesn’t have to end when the clock strikes midnight tonight. It can’t be boxed up and put in storage until next year. We can practice recognizing, embracing, and looking for the presence of God throughout the year. For our God is always with us from this day until the end. 

This is the day we’ve been waiting for. Let us rejoice.

Practicing Christmas Together: 

Gather your family together maybe before opening presents, or use your Advent wreath as the centerpiece on your Christmas dinner table. If you are alone this Christmas, find someone to FaceTime or take this peaceful moment to feel God’s presence. 

Turn down the lights, gather around the Advent wreath, and read Luke 2:8-20 aloud.  

Light all the candles around the wreath, saving the Christ candle (the white candle in the center) for last and read this blessing from The Lives We Actually Have (p. 224) as a prayer:

A Blessing for Christmas Day

God, this is a kind of magic
the way this day shines so strangely,
how it sparkles beyond our understanding. 

(Yes, it was a disaster 
the way the food turned out this year 
and how what’s-her-face said (I told her not to)
What shouldn’t be repeated. 
Again this year.) 

But, somehow, this day 
never fails to awaken a longing  
to love well—or at least better—
all those here with us, and those far away,
and to remember with gratitude
those now gone, gone, gone and missed.

What is this mystery? 

Our God who set the world spinning 
should come down for this one reason:
to love us into a newness. 

Not for gain, nor our capitalist fantasies,
but the hope that freely, lavishly, 
that we might learn to see, feel, and live Christ’s love.

Thank you. 
Christ the Giver and the Gift.


1. What have you discovered about recognizing the presence of God in your life? Share a time where you’ve experienced the hope, peace, love, or joy of God this season of Christmas (it can be big or small). 

2. What are the gifts (hope, peace, love, joy) of Christmas that you want to cherish and carry with you throughout the year (not just on Christmas Day)?

3. How will you share these gifts with others? How can you be the presence of God in other people’s lives by sharing hope, peace, love, and joy? By sharing these gifts we help others to live into the “after” of Christmas Day. 

Going Deeper:

Today, be present to God in your life by looking for, embracing, and cherishing all the ways that God is surprising you with hope, peace, joy, and love. These are signs of God’s presence in your life. List how you have felt the presence of God this day and throughout the season of Advent.


NT Wright and Kate had a rich discussion about how God works with us through the hard things in life. Watch a clip from the conversation here:

Listen Along with our Christmastide playlist: