A Christmas carol that was brought to life also brought tears to my eyes. Although we didn’t attend the Campbell River Baptist Church at the time, word reached us that they hosted the best Christmas event of the season. We anticipated the 30-minute drive to get there would be worth every kilometer. Some events are worth suffering a long lineup of waiting; this is how it was one December evening in 1994 as we attended their live Nativity.
A long line of couples, families, and singles waited outside the ancient “city of Bethlehem” that was carefully—and no doubt prayerfully—reenacted by a team of church volunteers.
As our section of the lineup approached the re-creation of the little town where Jesus was born, we heard sheep bleat, smelled fresh baked bread, and spotted people dressed as though they’d just stepped out of the Book of Matthew. The night air was cold against our skin, but as soon as we entered the little town of Bethlehem, we were too distracted to mind. The busyness of the Christmas story came to life all around us.
A man dressed in humble robes shouted prophecies about Jesus and about man’s need to repent. While he spoke words I recognized from Scripture, other actors and actresses bustled about selling food, wares, or tending to their livestock. My face no longer felt stiff from cold, but I felt the strain of my wide smiles as they stretched taut over thawing cheekbones. I inhaled and meditated upon the sights, sounds, and smells swirling before me.
We meandered through the crowd and cluster of commerce, for in those Bible days wages were desperately needed to buy goods, foods, and services for families struggling to survive during the oppression of the Roman Empire.
Suffering comes in all sorts and sizes of circumstances. My cross at the time was a decade-long-journey of infertility.
When we came to the end of the town, the beauty of the live Nativity packed a poignant punch. I sucked in a sorrowful breath and exhaled a serene sigh as my emotions threatened to trickle out through tears. But I held them back and chose to think beyond myself. I gazed upon the young mother and her newborn baby as if they really were Jesus and Mary.
My heart settled calm like a baby cradled in loving arms as I marveled afresh what God had done for mankind—for me: God with us is the most generous gift ever given and received.
Yes, a child of my own would be wonderful. But a few months before this night, I had chosen to trust God with my desire. I had chosen to believe He would either take my grief away or fill my arms with a child of my own.
Emmanuel is a marvelous gift to us that reminds us anything is possible with God. Anything. He can settle a heart broken by barrenness. He can fill an empty womb. He can bring joy in ways we never hoped or imagined. God with us means we never need to suffer alone. We never need to pretend all is well; we can bring our sorrow to God’s always overflowing well of hope. He is with us to comfort us, to carry us, and to lead us with love.
After twelve years of infertility, God showed me I could walk through this valley with palatable peace and sincere joy.
For so long I avoided places that reminded me of my barrenness. I had stopped going to baby showers. I had refused to go to church on Mother’s Day, and I stayed miles away from young mothers.
But one day God plopped me in the middle of a bunch of mothers-to-be and showed me I could survive the grief if I shared my sorrow with Him. For years I’d bottled it up. I feared feeling the sting and ache of empty arms. When I finally poured out my heart with unfiltered phrases and unreserved passion, God met me and filled me with a peace I couldn’t explain. It changed me. He changed me. God with us made me brave to face whatever would or wouldn’t be.
What I didn’t realize while I was stirred by the live Nativity scene was that the life of my own child stirred inside of me. Nine months later my long lineup of waiting—of suffering—ended with the birth of my first son. God with us was indeed with me. He’d been there all along. I just needed to lean my head against His heart no matter what life brought or didn’t bring to mine.
“Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.” Matthew 1:23 KJV
And now I’d like to close with a poem:
Incline your heart to Jesus
And let your thoughts employ
The hope we have in Him each day
Who leads with love and joy
Incline your heart to Jesus
and give each sorrow to Him
because he longs to comfort all
and grant us peace within.
God with us blessings ~ Wendy Mac
P.S. Did you guess which Christmas Carol was brought to life for me?
You’re invited to read more inspiration by a favorite writer of mine here: #TellHisStory