(RNS) The coming of Jesus is about God, and it is about us. If we start with the latter, we might understand the former.
How does God see us? Listen to what we sing.
God sees us as hungry for a "rose" blooming in the desert. A flower we ourselves cannot plant.
God sees us as desperate for a "silent night" of grace and peace. When we cease our strivings and lay down our tools and weapons, we need the Lord of life to lie with us, to "stay by our side 'til morning is nigh."
God sees us so burned out by labors and bummed out by noise that we ache for stillness. "Still! Still! Still!" cry God's angels, because God knows we need it. "Joy! Joy! Joy!"
God sees us struggling with the powers of this world. Too much wealth, too much arrogance, too much oppression. In this dark night we yearn to raise our heads. We want to know a better "king" is coming. And with him "salvation" and "healing."
God sees our sadness and dismay. We cannot hide it in shopping and festivals. God sees us as shepherds caring for children, partners, parents, weak and helpless souls God has given to us.
Ours is lonely duty, unseen by revelers at the inn, maybe shared, maybe alone. This duty leads us outside ourselves: to listen when we are weary, to feed when we are hungry and to love when we feel unloved.
As a new parent, God understood that the world could be a harsh place for children. "Hopes and fears" crowd in on parents, and God sends an "everlasting light" to show the way.
God knows we are afraid. Our world seems to be spinning wildly off course. Whatever God calls this year, we know that 2014 has been a dreadful cycle around the sun. God knows we need a "star of wonder" to guide us. Not to make everything easy, but to give us direction and courage.
God sees all this and more. God sees the fragile parent and weary grandparent caring for the baby in duty that is both lonely and holy. God sees the once-young aching as a life-partner fades into dementia. God sees the parent feeling pride at children's accomplishments but wanting even more to hold them close, to feel their heartbeat and to take their hand across the street. "O come, O come, O come."
Yes, our hearts are breaking. We face it bravely, and maybe the world doesn't ever see it. But in the night watch, when the "gloomy clouds of night" reveal our bondage in exile, at that precise moment, we are so close to God that we hear angels "bending to the earth."
And if we listen closely, we will hear our own hearts reply, "Hallelujah!" Maybe in a whisper, maybe in a shout, whatever we can muster, we speak God's truth: "The King of kings, the Lord of Lords" will reign forever. We aren't alone.
Who, then, is God? The one who is with us "forever."
(Tom Ehrich is a writer, church consultant and Episcopal priest based in New York. He is the president of Morning Walk Media and publisher of Fresh Day online magazine. His website is www.morningwalkmedia.com. Follow Tom on Twitter @tomehrich.)
YS/MG END EHRICH