“Instead of trying to make more time for God, look for opportunities to live more of your time with Him.”
“The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel … ‘God with us’ ” (Matthew 1:23).
The holy wonder of the Incarnation is the good news of Christmas, but Immanuel is more than just the baby in the manger. It’s more than a 2,000-year-old miracle. Immanuel means more than God being with us in some abstract theological way. Immanuel means God with us right here and now. If Jesus has really done this—brought us into the embrace of the Mighty God through the flesh and blood He shares with us—then it’s a miracle we can live out any day, not just Christmas Day.
But how do we actually live it? How do we live with an awareness of God when we are awash in the messy churning of daily life, when we barely have a spare minute to ourselves, let alone a sweet hour of prayer?
I used to feel guilty when, as a new mom, I didn’t have time for a lengthy, uninterrupted quiet time with God. I wanted it. I desperately needed it. But I couldn’t seem to make it happen.Then I discovered an old book called Practicing the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence, a 17th-century dishwashing monk. He learned to recognize God as “intimately present with us” at every moment of the day. Slowly, this concept began to transform how I thought about my time with God. I began a new practice—call it a habit, if you will—of living my days along with Jesus. Of living with Immanuel, the One who wants to live with us.
So how do we go about living a lifestyle of Immanuel? Here’s a short list of things that have helped me to practise the presence of God. I share them as a fellow pilgrim in the hope that they might bring you closer to Jesus as well, not just at Christmas, but all year long.
1. Rethink your time. Here’s a secret: spending more time with God doesn’t necessarily
involve getting up an hour earlier. (Good news for those among us who are slow starters!) Instead of trying to make more time for God, look for opportunities to live more of your time with Him. (Have you ever actually succeeded in making time? Me neither. It’s not a gift we mortals are blessed with.)
Dividing our time doesn’t work well either. We get caught in the trap of thinking some activities are spiritual and others are not. But God created us to live whole lives, with Him at the centre, radiating through all we do. Brother Lawrence felt just as close to God when he was scrubbing pots and pans as when he was worshipping in church. We can take a page out of his book. Don’t wait for the house to be quiet to open your heart to God. He doesn’t mind the noise.
One of the best ways I’ve found to practise the presence of God is to open a conversation with Jesus when you begin your day and keep it going. Remember, conversation goes both ways. Speak to Him and keep your ears open for His voice. I’ve heard it in many surprising ways. He even uses the mundane details of my life as His mouthpiece. Instead of looking for some ideal time to spend with God, try bringing God into every moment of your everyday life.
2. Tie an anchor.While it’s true that we can live alongside God during our day, it’s vital to have some time set aside to anchor ourselves in His Word and prayer. This is what will keep us grounded in His truth and send our roots deep into His love. A daily habit of Scripture reading and prayer is foundational. It will keep you firm when the day threatens to sweep you away. It doesn’t have to be long. A few moments of focused time will go a long way in aligning your heart with God’s.
If you’re new to a daily habit of Scripture reading and prayer, here are a few tips. First, choose the same time each day. That will help make it stick. Second, tie the habit to something you already do every day¾your morning coffee, making your bed, an evening cup of tea—anything that will trigger you to move into that time of Scripture and prayer. Piggybacking a new habit onto an old one will help. Third, be patient with yourself. New habits take time to form. If you miss a day, don’t beat yourself up over it. Just tie that anchor the next day and keep going.
3. Take a moment.So you’ve opened the conversation with Jesus, and you’re trying to be more aware of Him as your faithful friend in ordinary life. But what happens when your day starts going south, when you realize that you’ve lost that connection with Him and are flying off the handle? This is when you need to take a moment.
A moment is often all we need. In that moment, we simply acknowledge our need and look at Jesus. Call out His name. Turn toward His love. Recall the words He’s already spoken to you or hear Him speak again into your situation. Realign with His purpose. Offer your gratitude. Present your requests. Rest in His loving, faithful Word that assures us, “You matter. You are mine. You are beloved. My strength is made perfect in your weakness.”
So often we resist the very thing that will put our day back on track. We throw up our hands in despair, wallow in self-pity, or succumb to distraction. But we don’t need another coping mechanism. We need to take a moment and reconnect to the source of our life. You will always be welcomed with grace.
At the end of the day, living with Immanuel means living loved in every moment. Imagine if God’s love became the predominant reality of your day. Practising His presence can do just that. Live with Immanuel every day!
Some practical suggestions for living every day with Immanuel this Christmas season:
- Put on Christmas music and worship while you wrap gifts, wash dishes or drive to the mall. Infuse your day with comfort and joy through music. And remember—dancing reduces stress and lightens the atmosphere of your home too!
- Choose a passage of Scripture to meditate on over the season. Write it out and put it where you will see it every day. There are many beautiful passages surrounding the birth of Jesus. Mary’s song in Luke 1 is one of my personal favourites.
- Read through an Advent or Christmas devotional. Pair it with your favourite hot beverage.
- Take a moment by the manger. Set up a crèche in your house somewhere. Stop and quiet your heart for a minute or two before the scene each day. Breathe a prayer inviting Immanuel to fill you with His hope, peace, joy and love. Focus on the centre of the story and let Him put things in perspective.
- Light a candle. With darker days, candles are a fitting way to express hope. As you light the candle, thank Jesus for the light He brings to your life.
Lindsey Gallant loves everyday theology and lives with her family on their mini-farm in Prince Edward Island. She blogs at theredlettersblog.com.