A few weeks ago, my father spent nine days in ICU with underlying complications from a breakthrough case of Covid. When we placed him in his new home, my biggest fear was: What if he gets sick–all alone–and we can’t be present with him? Is Dad afraid?
We were unable to visit due to Covid protocols, but each day, I’d receive reports from his nurses. Finally, he was released back to his new facility, welcomed by cheering and crying nurses. He’s now officially under hospice care. As sobering as that is, it’s good news because he has even more care.
While he was alone in the hospital, I prayed that God would pierce through the cloudiness and speak directly into his heart and mind. That my father would sense God’s presence and know the Lord was there. I prayed Dad would remember the words I’ve recited to him many times this year:
God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.” (Hebrews 13:5b-6a)
Even in the midst of this difficult season, I can look forward to sadness not lasting forever. The long season of waiting will end someday. Christmas will soon be here.
I rejoice in all that Christmas means: Immanuel. God with us. Imagine! The God of the universe deemed to take on human flesh and come to earth to be with us. And he promised he’ll never leave us alone.
Lately, I’ve pondered the importance of that small word, “with.” What it means that God is present with me. He has me in his sights, constantly. He’s never distracted. He will not go anywhere and leave me.
I can always call to God. Even if I forget how to use the phone, or can’t remember whether it’s day or night, or if it’s been one month or one day since we last connected. He’s always within reach.
God with us reminds me that he’s close. Never distant.
He’s here. Now. Present tense. I’m not in this alone.
Every time I see my father, he wants the assurance that we won’t abandon him. That we won’t forget him. He is content when we just sit side by side on the front porch of his new home, or in his room looking at animals on a National Geographic show, or watching while he sleeps. Being present with him meets his deepest needs and calms his fears.
The same with my mom. Every morning, I attend to her needs, and she’s grateful. But what she most wants is for me to stay–after I make breakfast and lunch and dole out medications and wash dishes and dump trash and listen to her read to me. She wants me to sit with her, even if we’re silent. She wants me to be fully present with her.
Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which translated means, “God with us.” (Matthew 1:22-23)
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)
Wherever I go, God is already there.
I am never alone. You are never alone.
There is no need to be afraid.