My second son’s middle name is Emmanuel. Micah Emmanuel. I love how it sounds in Spanish. It is one smooth word, 5 syllables. Mi-cah-eh-man-WELL. Soft but strong. In English it sounds a bit more clunky. Really Christian sounding if you ask me. Maybe too much so for my “taste”.
I knew an Emmanuel when I was little. He was fair and frail and his name seemed very serious and very long for someone so small and white.
I have to take my Christmas tree down tomorrow, pack away the little snow men, box up this year’s handmade ornaments for Christmas in 5 year’s time when we’ll explain to Lucas how his face lit up like the tree itself as he fumbled with his mitts to pluck beaded candy cane ornaments from his backpack.
Knowing this, I sang a final Christmas carol to Micah as he pressed his sleepy face into my neck and his arms dropped from their firm embrace to hang loosely at his sides.
O Come, O Come Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
I hadn’t sang it this year and it seemed only fitting as I have been gripped with the concept of Emmanuel this year.
It started on a drive home from soccer practice. “Mommy, why is that star so bright?”
“It is a planet, Lovie.” I replied.
“Which one?” Lucas inquired.
“Oh, I don’t know. Maybe Jupiter?”
“Why do they name the planets Jupiter? And Mars?”
“They are named after gods that people had long ago.”
Lucas was quiet for a moment. “But Mommy, they aren’t real, those gods.”
“No, they aren’t Honey.”
“How can you name something after someone who isn’t real? That’s just silly.” Another pause. “Hey Mommy? Can I rename the planet I see?”
“Sure Honey, that’s a great idea. What do you want to name it?”
He didn’t pause at all. “Emmanuel. Because he’s real. And because it means God with us. Do you like that Mommy?”
“I like it very much.”
And I do. Renaming the false to remind us of the very present God in our midst.
I have thought often of that conversation, and often about Micah’s second name this season.
When we settled on Emmanuel as Micah’s second name, or tentatively decided on it, because, truth be told, I was very unsure even as I filled out the forms, God-with-us felt about as far away as those roman gods, or at very least, that planet. Emmanuel wasn’t an easy proclamation. It was a plea.
I was in a season of deep silence, dark spiritual waters. I wasn’t questioning my faith really, I just felt very alone. And I grieved for what this separation from God would mean for my little one who couldn’t “marinate” in His presence.
One of the very few things I sensed God say was that the season of darkness would end when the baby was born. I was mad at this and thought it foolish. How can I put the expectation on a tiny little baby to change the climate of my soul? And yet, God knew best. He is good at that.
Somehow, in a very mysterious way, this child has ministered God’s presence to me. There have been times when holding him, I feel he is holding me. His disarming sweetness and quiet little presence has grounded me when the world has felt fragmented and unstable. And it feels silly saying it but somehow in his wide, long lashed-eyes, I keep seeing God.
So I’ll pack it all up tomorrow, maybe hum a tune or two, but I’ll keep carrying Emmanuel with me. The little one and the Big one made small.