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December 1, 2006

“Lo, I am with you always.”  (Matthew 28:20b)

A businessman rushed onto a flight going from San Francisco to New York.  As the plane began to taxi from the gate he realized that he was sitting next to a nun.  And, this nun was very nervously looking out the window and whimpering.

Finally, the businessman couldn’t take it anymore.  He asked the nun, “Sister, what’s wrong?”  She replied, “I’m really afraid of flying.  It terrifies me.”

“But sister,” he said.  “Didn’t the Lord say that He would be with you always?”

“No,” she said.  “Jesus said ‘low’ I will be with you always.”

Isn’t that amazing that God should love us like that?  That God should choose to take on human flesh and frailty?  To do life as we do life.  That His presence would be with us - always.

Not just part time.  Not just when He chooses to somehow pay attention to our lives.  Not just when things get really, really, bad.  Not just some of the time.  But, always.

He is always there to bless us with His presence, working in our hearts, filling us with His strength and peace, reassuring us with His hope and love, giving of His wisdom and guidance.

In all of the trying and difficult circumstances of our lives, in all of our fears and concerns, times of loneliness and depression, living in this world which always has troubles, times when we’re tempted to wonder, “God, where are you?”  We can know God’s presence. “I am with you always.”

In Jerusalem there was a pool called Bethseda. Gathered around the pool was a large group of people who were sick, the blind, the lame, the paralyzed.  At various times of the year an angel of the Lord would come and stir up the water of the pool.  Whoever was the first to step into the water after the angel stirred it up was made well.

There was one man who had been lying next to the pool for 38 years.  When Jesus came to the pool He came to this man and, knowing how long the man had been lying there, asked him, “Would you like to get well?”  Its a good question.  Imagine, in 38 years this man had yet to find a way to beat everyone else into the pool.

The man answered, “I can’t sir.  I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred up.  While I’m trying to get there, someone else always gets in ahead of me.”  I can’t be healed because I can’t get myself to the pool.  The angel of the Lord comes and I’m stuck here in my sickness.

Jesus said to him, “Stand up, pick up your sleeping mat, and walk!”  Immediately the man was healed.  He rolled up his mat and began walking. (John 5:1-9)

For 38 years this sick man had been trying to help himself.  But, when he opened himself up to the presence of God, the working of God in his life, he was healed.

Jesus hasn’t come so we can go on struggling trying to fix our lives.  To muddle through life on our own.  To live aware of God’s presence but disbelieving the implications for our own lives.

Jesus has come so that we can live knowing God and His presence and power in our lives, now and always.  Like the man at the pool of Bethseda we need to open our lives to His presence and allow Him to work in us rebuilding our lives, guiding us, restoring relationships, healing our hearts, surrendering wounds, teaching us to live lives of purpose, meaning, and value.

As we celebrate Jesus’ birth may we learn to give our lives to Him to live only within His presence and power.  May we learn to say these words from our heart:  “Lord Jesus enter into my life.  Take control of _circumstance_ . I trust you.  I give my life to you.  I will allow you to lead me forward.”