Leviticus 1:1-3:17; Mark 1:29-2:12; Psalm 35:17-28; Proverbs 9:13-18
During Christmas last year (just a month and a half ago; how is that possible?), "Immanuel" was everywhere. I couldn't escape it: in my OYB readings, in the songs we sang at church, in my own need to know that God was present. "God with us" - over and over and over.
And I remember reading the same account in Matthew that we read today in Mark. I think I even commented on the willingness of Jesus. He goes to Simon's mother-in-law and heals her. He meets with the sick and demon-possessed well into the night. And even though Jesus goes away, to a solitary place (Mk. 1:35), when he is interrupted, he responds with genuine warmth. Jesus is with the people who need him. He is available. He is active. Immanuel.
The psalmist pleads for this same presence. He begs for God's interaction and response (Ps. 35:17, 22-25), but seems simultaneously confident that God will intervene (vs. 27-28). His history with the Lord leads him to expect that he will be vindicated. God will be with him in this specific situation because God has always been with him before.
I need these reminders. I forget that Immanuel has come; I lose sight of the truth that God is with me. I need the community of God's people - the Church - to be the body of Christ to me and for me. I need to cultivate a heart of gratitude, of remembering, of noticing and praising God. This is an incredible concept: God WITH us. It changes everything. It confers value on us, it imbues our lives with meaning and purpose. We are not alone. We are not abandoned. We are cared for, intimately and continually.
As I think of God being with me, being present, being active and responsive, I cannot help but concur with the writer of today's psalm: "My tongue will speak of your righteousness and of your praises all day long" (Ps. 35:28). Truly, what a wonderful thing: God is with us, friends.
- Sarah Marsh