Submitted by Ahmi K. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church
Reflect on the promise of Emmanuel that was fulfilled in the coming of Jesus, and that stands as a continuing promise for all of Christ’s followers.
Having come from convalescent home visits and witnessing the bleakness of life at end, I see how true it is that we are captive and in exile – that is the true state of humanity, and only those who are rescued by Jesus can rejoice. There is no other source of rejoicing. Emmanuel – God with us. That is the only hope we have. Really, at the end of the day, there is utter loneliness and exile from where we belong to which we need to return.
Submitted by Susanna L. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church
The Bible describes Christians as aliens and strangers in the world. In what ways can you identify with this sense of not being quite at home in the world?
The ways that I can identify with the sense of not being quite at home in the world have to do with the values of this world. This world is all about striving to be somebody, to make a name for oneself, and to leave a legacy behind. There is no genuine love or compassion in the world. It is all directed to the elevation and preservation of the self with the limited resources in this world. It is all abut what is before our five physical senses. Reality stops with our senses. There is no greater cause or purpose. But God’s kingdom is so radically different. First, the reality of God’s kingdom doesn’t end with our physical senses. It is a spiritual reality that is to last eternally. God is love. The oxygen of His kingdom is love, unconditional love. We are valued not based on our appearance or performance but on our relationship to God—the fact that we have been created and we are adopted by God Himself as Our Heavenly Father. The reality of our identification with God is the radical and eternal difference. Because of God as He is the one and only Creator, there is abundance. I no longer need to compete in this scarce world for attention and to be someone. My daughtership with God is more than enough. All that striving can now be channeled to do what I was designed to be: to love God and to love others as God loves me and to bring the Good News of the Gospel to those who do not know their Maker.
Submitted by Sieun C. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church
Reflect on the words “captive Israel,” and “until the Son of God appear.” Describe how all humanity is captive, and cannot save itself, that we need to be “ransomed,” and that our only hope is that “the Son of God appear.”
We are captive in this world, even if the world blinds us and fools us into thinking all is good and we can have rest and peace in this world. The reality is that ultimately there’s death and because of this we experience hopelessness, brokenness, lostness, a sense that something is missing and incomplete in this world. We seek after solutions in romance, ambition, and community, but apart from God, it’s temporal with no real answer. The phrase “captive Israel” describes all of humanity. And God looked down and at all of history, and his heart grieved, became broken, He saw that there was no solution, no one who can solve the problem, and he rolled back his sleeves and entered history to ransom us from captivity.
Submitted by Jeannie L. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church
Write a prayer in response to today’s passages.
Thank you God for answering the cry of my heart, of our hearts, that you CAME, O Emmanuel. I was captive to my own sin. And indeed I moaned mournfully, and was groping along blindly trying to find my way in this world. I stumbled and was falling, and though I seemed strong, I was dead, dead inside, dead spiritually. I tried to find my way in people, finding friends who I thought would be there for me, but they were not Emmanuel, God WITH ME. I tried to find my way in the world, trying this or that, trying to fit in, but even though I fit in, I was not at home.
Lord, the more I live life, the more I see the words of this hymn are so true. We are all captive in some way, and cannot save ourselves. Captive to the world’s values, captive to our own selfish desires, captive to expectations of others upon us, captive to people we want to please, captive to idols, captive to money. We are hopeless indeed, and utterly sinful, groping about trying to find hope and meaning in a dark and unfriendly world. Thank you for your deliverance!
Thank you Lord, that you were appalled by my sin and my darkness and that you yourself, came, robed in flesh, and came to intervene, that you worked salvation with your own mighty hand and compassion. Thank you for seeing my plight, hearing my cries, and coming down to be with me. I feel like a stranger and alien indeed here in this world, so thank you that you came to rescue me from my sin and to give me a new home and new purpose.
Thank you for your promise to be with me to the very end of the age. That comforts me more than anything in the world, that I am safe with you, that I have come home and can find peace and contentment in you, that I can find rest from the burden of my own sins and others’ sins. I know that whatever comes, whatever happens, it will be okay because of your Emmanuel presence. Please give me that small mustard seed of faith to trust that truth and cling to it for the rest of my days.