Emmanuel Isn't Coming
In her Nazi concentration camp journal, Etty Hillesom, a young Jewish woman, reflected that God wasn’t coming to rescue her.
“One thing is becoming increasingly clear to me: that You cannot help us, that we
help you by helping ourselves…all that really matters is that we safeguard the little
of You, God, in ourselves, and perhaps in others as well. Alas, there doesn’t seem
to be much You Yourself can do about our circumstances, about our lives…I do not
hold you responsible. You cannot help us but we must help You and defend Your
Dwelling place inside us to the last.”
This Spirit-inspired prayer of Etty recognizes how useless it was to pray or expect God to save her or the others from the diabolic horrors of the Nazi death camp! The Holy One wasn’t going to send any angels or Emmanuel to overpower the Gestapo guards since in her case God was impotent—not almighty! This dark depressive fact, however, inspired Etty instead to come to God’s help! She could do that by protecting that small Divine dwelling within her to the very last.
Her prayer is ideal for all in hopeless situations, those dying in the last stage of cancer, of AIDS or descending the slippery slide of Alzheimer’s. It also is a fitting prayer for all who are imprisoned by an addiction, migraine headaches, the terrible choice of a marriage partner or being stuck in a lonely life. The divine paradox is that instead of God answering our prayers it is you and I who must answer God’s prayer to safeguard the Emmanuel within us.
God is a savior, a rescuer, an Emmanuel, a name meaning, “God among us—within us and with us.” This Mystical Presence dwells in a small still place in our hearts. Like a tiny flickering pilot light it can quickly activate warmhearted kindness, sharing of one’s meagerness with the needy, acceptance of those who are malicious and heartfelt gratitude even for a hard crust of stale bread. Any of these can make Emmanuel come forth brightly in the darkness.
In spite of approaching horror, Etty knew she was safe as long as God continued dwelling within her. So when you’re caught up in hectic holiday rushing, busy schedules, shopping and gift preparing you can imitate her. It is almost impossible to keep all that noisy Christmas clatter “out there!” unless you create islands of silence in your day whereby to be in touch with the inner-Emmanuel. Otherwise, all the noisy hubbub of Christmas can invade your soul and like the hellish evil of a Nazi Death Camp easily smothers the small divine flame within.
Let all you with ears hear
and answer God’s prayer for help!