All right then, the Lord himself will give you the sign. Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God is with us’).

Isaiah 7:14 NLT

I wrote earlier about the idea that advent is about points of light in the darkness. Today’s scripture has me thinking that it is also about relationship – God’s relationship with us, ours with Him, and our relationship with those around us.

The name “Immanuel,” given to Jesus means “God is with us.” You don’t have to be in church for very many Christmases to come across a message about this name. Usually, those messages focus on the word “with.” Usually, those listening are reminded that God is not distance, that God is WITH us. And that is a good and valid point.

But last year I heard a message that focused on the “US” part of that phrase. God with US. The reminder is that we are meant to be in community. We are meant to be in relationship with other Christians and with those who do not share our faith. We are meant to do life with others. As individuals, we are stronger when we are part of a team. I found that profound and moving.

It is not always easy to be part of the church. The church can hurt you. It is, after all, made up of imperfect people. Conflicts arise and are dealt with poorly or swept under a rug.

At some point, we must wonder why we bother.

But I think God with US, is at least part of an answer to that. We bother because as much as it is imperfect, the church is the US that God is with. Sometimes we get it wrong. But sometimes we get it right. And when we do –  there is nothing more beautiful.

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