One of the strange things about my role within the All We Can movement – helping to create worship resources for churches and people on a journey of faith – is that we are often thinking (at least) six months ahead of ourselves. So here I am, in the middle of July, thinking about Christmas.
And specifically about that most Christmassy of words – Immanuel.
Immanuel – God is with us.
This fundamental truth, this crucial revelation about the divine – that God is somehow not distant, not isolated, not aloft, but somehow, remarkably, ‘with us’ is at the heart of the Christian faith. God is not just incarnate at Christmas, but present with us always. This incarnational nature of God, this ‘withness’ (let’s just agree that withness is a word) has been crucial for me in navigating lockdown and a global pandemic. We have felt very far apart, have been physically distanced, and have been prevented from traveling to meet and share with our global neighbours around the world. In that context, it has mattered to me more than ever that God is somehow with me – and also with all those who I love, as well as all those who I don’t even know and may not ever meet, but who are a part of this one human race.
The new President and Vice-President of the Methodist Conference have taken this theme, and John Wesley’s final words, as their inspiration for this year:
‘Best of all, God is with us.’
The incoming President of the Methodist Conference, Revd Richard Teal, talked us through this ‘withness’ during the processes of orientation, disorientation, and reorientation. That seemed particularly pertinent at the moment: as we find our way through this crisis and discover much that is new and different, let us not forget that best of all, God is with us. You can catch Richard’s address to the Conference here.
God’s ‘withness’, however, is not just a comfort blanket for me when I feel isolated or cut off. It is also a reminder of my invitation to be a part of God’s big story – a story of love and grace and peace that hopes we will eventually live in a world where every person’s potential is fulfilled. That is why I continue to feel called to be a part of the All We Can movement, and why I love living, working and walking alongside so many of you who are also a part of this movement for change. As we strive for justice, God is with us. Immanuel.