Embracing Emmanuel in Messy Times

Human life is a messy business. As we celebrate Christmas this year, we think again about how God chose to engage in that messiness on a very human level. In the midst of a world marked by powerful kings, God humbly delivered the King of Kings to us as a vulnerable baby, born in the filth of an animal stable. The Nativity, the picture of God’s son as a newborn child lying in a humble manger, is a powerful illustration of Jesus’ life and ministry. Jesus, as God’s Emmanuel who walked and ministered to us on earth, is the ultimate expression of God’s deep desire to be with us on a personal level, precisely because of our messiness. And what a mess we make of things! As the Josiah Bartlett Center for Public Policy indicated in its most recent Broadside newsletter of December 20th, “Political polarization, the constant barrage of negative news, and incessant social media bullying have Americans feeling stressed, exhausted and combative.”

Have we made such a mess of things that God cannot, or will not, handle it any more?

As Cornerstone often says in our interactions with Granite State churches, “Politics is messy because people are messy.” Our New Hampshire state leaders are not immune from the very human failings we all share. And the complexity, pace, and number of issues constantly facing Granite Staters overwhelm us all. 

In view of such human messiness, the apostle Paul encourages us to dive right into the middle of it with humility, just as Jesus did over 2,000 years ago: “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men” (Philippians 2.5-7). 

What does that look like? What does it look like for us followers of Emmanuel to humbly dive into the messy people and processes of the New Hampshire government? 

Consider The Chosen series, a crowd-funded multi-season series about the life of Jesus. If you haven’t seen it, it’s worth a binge watch during the Christmas season. In their most recent Christmas episode entitled The Messengers, the tagline repeated by the dirty shepherds who find the newborn Christ in a stable is, “People must know.” The same is true today. People must know the good news that a gracious and loving God wants to enter into the messiness of our sin and help make things right.

This Christmas, we at Cornerstone suggest the next step for us Emmanuel followers when it comes to engaging with Granite State government: People must do.

As God acted decisively by entering into our messiness at Christmas, so we must enter into the New Hampshire political sphere. With our feet firmly planted in the humility of God’s kingdom, we must also engage with the earthly kings of this world. And humility does not mean that we are to be without courage. In fact, true humility demands it.

What could “People must do”  look like for us Emmanuel followers in 2022?

For Cornerstone’s Church Ambassador Network, it means connecting small groups of pastors with state legislators, leaders of executive departments, and state judges, for the purpose of relationship. This is not about debating policy, but learning to relate again with our state officials as fellow humans first, and as co-shepherds, regardless of policy differences. Shepherds of churches and “shepherds” of legislative districts have a lot in common, as they often surprisingly discover when meeting together.

For Cornerstone’s policy team, “People must do” means vigorously defending New Hampshire’s recently-passed legal protection for the preborn at 24 weeks gestational age and later. Set to become law on January 1st, a bill aimed at gutting the law will hit the state House of Representatives within the first few days of their session beginning Wednesday, January 5th.

What does “People must do” mean for you? What must you do as a Christian to minister to distressed people in the wake of political polarization and social media bullying, as the Josiah Bartlett Center has noted? 

Have you thought about running for a local office, such as town selectman, for your local school board, or for your library trustees board? Have you thought about running for a state representative seat in 2022? People must do.

Have you ever contacted your state legislators, honoring and thanking them for their work, while clearly advocating for an important policy? The late-term preborn of New Hampshire are crying out for you to do so. People must do. 

Is it time to include Cornerstone in your giving strategy, so that your values are heard and represented in the state house? People must do.

The message of the Nativity is clear. Emmanuel is calling us all to serve as humble but courageous participants in our own state and local governments. As Jesus’ life and death in Roman-occupied Israel testify, God knows our messiness and the messiness of the human political sphere from a deeply personal level. Given our deep divisions today, involvement itself may feel messy, but consider a government without people of faith. God is with us. As Mary, Joseph, and the shepherds discovered long ago, God will meet us in our human messiness with His glory in ways we could not have imagined.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from all of us at Cornerstone!

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