"'And you shall call His name Emmanuel,' which means, 'God with us.'" Matthew 1:23
When our children were young and at home (Oh, the bliss of the empty nest!!!) Leslie and I maintained a “policy for scared kids in the middle of the night” that worked for all those years. If one of the children has a nightmare they can come in our room and go to sleep in a sleeping bag we keep on the floor next to our bed.
Historically, Lauren was on my side, Gregory on Leslie’s. I commend this policy to all couples with young children for the simple reason that it keeps the kids out of your bed. If you let them in you have a hard time getting them out. Also if they are in bed with you then you will probably not sleep. A child in bed thrashes around like a giant squid in its death throes.
One night, when Gregory was about five, I heard him thumping his way down the hall to come into our room. Being a light sleeper I always heard those midnight incursions. Leslie, who sleeps guiltlessly, snoozed through most any distraction. I watched Gregory go around the foot of our bed and get in the sleeping bag. It must have been a very bad dream for I heard him the next few minutes whimpering softly, tossing and turning. Finally, I got up, went around and lay down beside him.
He quietly told me that he had had a bad dream, but he didn’t want to talk about it. I decided to give him a good dose of a sound homily and so called upon a fine Old Testament text to quiet his fears. “When I am afraid I will trust in you” (Ps. 56:3). I explained thoroughly that God was here and he would take care of any bad dreams. A prayer closed our time together, though when I said amen I noticed that he was still praying quietly. I got up and went back to my side of the bed.
Perhaps five minutes later I saw his silhouette rise from the other side. He whispered,
“Daddy? Daddy!” I replied, “what’s the matter buddy?” His simple answer was, “it’s not working!”
You have to admire this theological honesty. God had made a promise, Greg had prayed, he still felt scared. Ergo, it’s not working. Once again I got up, uncertain now of how to handle this midnight crisis of faith. As I lay down again beside him I did find the words that would help him. “No, Gregory, it is working. God sent me to be here with you right now.” I stayed about ten minutes until I heard the gentle rhythm of sleep, got up and went back to bed. He needed me more than he needed words.
We have all had these midnight crises. Often they extend into the waking hours and persist for weeks, months or even years. We yearn for comfort. God’s answer was to send, not more words, but to send His Son who, according to the angel of the Lord, shall be called Emmanuel. Matthew helpfully translates this for us, God with us.
During this season of the year I pray that you will sense the presence and peace of Christ in a very real way. He is with you. He is ready to take your burdens because he cares for you. He longs to give you his joy. He is there. So relax in the rhythms of His grace. You are not alone. Go back to sleep.
Dr. Terry Ellis
December 21, 2014