At Christmas we remember how God is ‘Emmanuel’ – God with us – in Jesus. How he comes to dwell among us and how this has the power to change everything. To bring light even in the darkest places.
What does ‘God with us’ really look like?
So much for the theory. But what about the practice? What does that really look like?
In the new year, I’m going to be studying the life of Joseph. Not the Joseph from the nativity story but the Joseph from the Old Testament, the one with the famed technicolour dreamcoat.
Joseph show us what trust in God is
I’m hoping that, by looking at Joseph, we’ll see how trusting in the promise that God is with us at all times – in good times and in challenging times – doesn’t fix every problem in life immediately and instantaneously. But it does build resilience and does ultimately lead to flourishing.
Going back to Joseph. It’s hard to imagine a human life with more ups and downs than this man, the son of Jacob and the great grandson of Abraham.
Joseph’s life starts off well. He is his father’s favourite son – which is how he receives his special coat. (Interestingly, although the coat is referred to as ‘a coat of many colours’ in the Authorised King James translation of the original text, the Hebrew word used to describe the coat is more accurately translated as ‘ornate’ or possibly simply ‘long.’)
Anyway, this favouritism greatly annoys Joseph’s eleven brothers. And they plot to get rid of him and almost murder him. But, at the last moment, they relent and decide to sell him into slavery in Egypt, still hoping that this will be the end of him.
Joseph, however, is bought by an important Egyptian official, Potiphar, and – through hard work and diligence - wins his master’s respect. He then seems all set for a comfortable life in Egypt. But he is framed by Potiphar’s wife who wants to disgrace him and then he ends up in prison, possibly on death row.
Eventually Joseph is freed and again wins favour – this time the favour of the Pharaoh. He rises to a position of authority in Egypt – as the Pharaoh’s right hand man – but he is still cut off from his family.
Nonetheless, things conspire to bring Joseph the opportunity for reconciliation with his brothers and reunion with his father. The question remains whether he then has the courage, compassion and humility to forgive.
What – or who – is behind this amazing story?
Take the time to read this wonderful story - that is so beautifully and movingly written in the book of Genesis (Chapters 37-45) and see how it is Joseph’s persistent trust in God’s presence with him that saves him many times from despair. And enables him to live life in all its abundance – even when things are not going his way.
Try trusting that God really is at your side this year
As we approach a new year, may you trust that God is with you – whatever challenges lie ahead. May you allow God to guide you in how you respond each day and may you find that, even in the darkest times, God can and will bring you through to a place of hope and light.
Happy new year!