It was one of those really black nights...the kind where the inky darkness seems to stretch on with no beginning or end. I was headed out to help Daron finish up chores and each step seemed darker than the last as I left the glow and warmth of the house behind. The meager beam of my phone's flashlight barely dented the shadows around me. Naturally, my storyteller’s imagination began kicking into high gear, so I shakily called out Daron’s name. No answer. I called again. No answer. Now I knew. He was either being held hostage or was cornered by a skunk and trying to stay quiet. Or, perhaps he didn’t hear me; but, at the moment, a hostage situation seemed more likely. Now in crisis-mode, I heard noises coming from the pasture...gates clinking, rustling, more gate sounds. I called out again – tentatively - into the general direction of the noise, "Daron?" This time, the reassuring, non-hostage voice of my husband echoed back to me, "Hey, Babe, over here. Just checking the calves!" (Hmm...come to think of it, that was a reasonable explanation.) I hopped into the truck and turned the high beams out toward the field to give my hardworking farmer some better light. As I sat in the truck listening to One Sonic Society croon their song, "A Billion Stars" - (if you haven't heard it, I highly recommend clicking the starry sky pic for a link to listen on YouTube!) - I looked up into that same haunting, night sky. What had appeared so forebodingly dark just moments before, now twinkled with billions of soft, glittering stars. Without the moon to light the sky, the stars were show-cased in all of their beauty. I just hadn't noticed them because I was desperately focused on my tiny circle of light for guidance. It was when I finally heard Daron’s voice and felt the security of not being alone, that I became aware of the majesty that had been there all along.
The Christmas season is often full of people, lights, music, parties, and gifts. And yet, it is so easy to feel all alone in our tiny sphere of self...the thoughts, hurts, worries, and fears that come home with us from the parties can leave us feeling lonely even in a crowd. The quietness of our dark drives us to call out hoping there might be an answer this time. Sometimes, what feels like silence is not indifference or absence. It is the quiet presence of a Friend Who is with us. A Friend Who made all and knows all. One Whom Matthew says will be called, "Emmanuel... God With Us." (Matthew 1:23)
Ending out another year with its experienced joys and sorrows and heading into a new year of untraveled paths, can be either hopeful or frightening. I have found that as I purposefully place my hope in the One Who has promised to never leave or forsake me, I can rest in His control of what is to come. Not that the hardships disappear; rather, I know that my Friend is the Redeemer of broken stories. He takes my inadequate strivings and explodes them into a display of His grace and beauty for the world to see! This season - as I see the glittering lights and star-topped trees - I am reminded that my steps are guided by the Light of His face shining upon me. And in the moments of darkness when He seems to be distant...I can choose to breathe His name and know He is near. Because He is my Emmanuel... and He can be your Emmanuel too... God With Us!