Steve Macchia

Our With-ness is Our Witness

Our With-ness is Our Witness
By Steve Macchia

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God. He was with God in the beginning.” (John 1: 1,2) The incarnation is God’s gift to us—the with-ness of the life of Jesus, promised prophetically for generations, came to live among us.

Emmanuel: God is With Us.

“Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” (Luke 1:28) The angelic visitation to Mary assures her of the with-ness of God and the with-ness of the Spirit of God, in the forthcoming arrival of the mysterious and miraculous Christ child.

Jesus: God is For Us.

At the first nativity, not only were Mary and Joseph present, but soon there came shepherds who were visited by the heavenly host who appeared with the angel, praising God and announcing the Savior’s humble birth. They hurriedly went to Bethlehem to see this miracle that the Lord told them about.

Shepherds: God is With Us and For Us.

The shepherd’s with-ness at the birthplace of Jesus solidified their witness, for the shepherds responded by “spreading the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.” (Luke 2: 17,18)

What was true then is true today. Our with-ness is our witness. When we are with God in worship or in creation, we speak of God’s promises and beauty. He is for us and offers his fullness to us. When we are with God in prayer, we offer our praises as we are assured of his attentiveness. When we are with God and among his people, we give voiced witness to our shared life of worship, love, and service.

However, when we are not with God, our witness is imperiled. We may speak of God “out there” but not out of an intimate with-ness. When we are not spending time with God, our witness is paled, lacking depth, perhaps merely a faint memory of old. He seems distant from us and no longer for us.

The same is true among the people of God. What right do we have to bear witness about those we have never shared a meaningful with-ness? Such words become gossip, assumption, judgment, or prejudice. What do we make of such witness: believe it to be true or question it’s veracity?

To say we bear witness without with-ness rings shallow at best. But, when we are with and for another, meaningfully connected to each other, sitting side-by-side, arm-in-arm, or better yet face-to-face, then we have invested enough to bear witness to the truth of another. Spoken without judgment or condemnation, choosing instead to honor and affirm.

In this week before Christmas let me encourage you to be with God and also to be with others. Fully with and for one another. Lending a listening ear. Offering an eye of compassion. Speaking a word of love. Sharing a helping hand. And then bearing witness to what you experience in your with-ness.

With credit to Dave Friedrich, pastor of Church of the Cross, Boston MA, I close with the following poem by Malcolm Guite, entitled O Emmanuel.

O Emmanual
by Malcolm Guite

O come, O come, and be our God-with-us
O long-sought With-ness for a world without,
O secret seed, O hidden spring of light.
Come to us Wisdom, come unspoken Name
Come Root, and Key, and King, and holy Flame,
O quickened little wick so tightly curled,
Be folded with us into time and place,
Unfold for us the mystery of grace
And make a womb of all this wounded world.
O heart of heaven beating in the earth,
O tiny hope within our hopelessness
Come to be born, to bear us to our birth,
To touch a dying world with new-made hands
And make these rags of time our swaddling bands.

In the coming days, as you approach Christmas with family and friends, may you cling to the desire of God to be with you, and in return I pray you will choose with-ness and intimacy for the sake of your soul and for the good of others.

In with-ness and witness of joy in the Incarnate Jesus, who came to be with us and who sacrificed himself to demonstrate that he’s for us.

Steve Macchia
A grateful disciple of Jesus

Thanks to God for My Redeemer

In honor of our Salvation Army colleagues, this hymn was written by August Storm, who attended trade and agricultural schools before joining the Salvation Army where he served as finance secretary at Army headquarters in 1892. His poetry appeared in the Swedish War Cry Magazine. This hymn is great for personal, family, and community prayer and reflection this Thanksgiving.

Thanks to God for My Redeemer
by August Ludvig Storm

Thanks to God for my Redeemer,
Thanks for all Thou dost provide!
Thanks for times now but a mem’ry,
Thanks for Jesus by my side!
Thanks for pleasant, balmy springtime,
Thanks for dark and stormy fall!
Thanks for tears by now forgotten,
Thanks for peace within my soul!

Thanks for prayers that Thou hast answered,
Thanks for what Thou dost deny!
Thanks for storms that I have weathered,
Thanks for all Thou dost supply!
Thanks for pain, and thanks for pleasure,
Thanks for comfort in despair!
Thanks for grace that none can measure,
Thanks for love beyond compare!

Thanks for roses by the wayside,
Thanks for thorns their stems contain!
Thanks for home and thanks for fireside,
Thanks for hope, that sweet refrain!
Thanks for joy and thanks for sorrow,
Thanks for heav’nly peace with Thee!
Thanks for hope in the tomorrow.
Thanks for all eternity!

Heartfelt Prayers: Act of Petition

Praying

Act of Petition

Give me yourself, O my God, give yourself to me. Behold I love you, and if my love is too weak a thing, grant me to love you more strongly. I cannot measure my love to know how much it falls short of being sufficient, but let my soul hasten to your embrace and never be turned away until it is hidden in the secret shelter of your presence. This only do I know, that it is not good for me when you are not with me, when you are only outside me. I want you in my very self. All the plenty in the world which is not my God is utter want. Amen.

— St. Augustine

Reflection:

Behold — Where are the eyes of your heart drawn into this prayer?
Believe — How is your faith strengthened in this prayer?
Belong — Who are you recalling as you pray this prayer?
Become — What is God inviting you to receive and thereby become as you pray this prayer?

Heartfelt Prayers: We Bless You

Praying

We Bless You

O LORD God Almighty, Father of angels and men, We praise and bless your holy name for all your goodness and loving kindness to humanity. We bless you for our creation, preservation, and for your unceasing generosity to us throughout our lives; But above all, we bless you for your great love in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ. We bless you for bringing us safe to the beginning of a new day. Grant that this day we fall into no sin, Neither run into any kind of danger. Keep us, we pray, from all things hurtful to body or soul, and grant us your pardon and peace, So that, being cleansed from all our sins, We might serve you with quiet hearts and minds, and continue in the same until our life’s end, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Redeemer. Amen

— John Wesley

Reflection:

Behold — Where are the eyes of your heart drawn into this prayer?
Believe — How is your faith strengthened in this prayer?
Belong — Who are you recalling as you pray this prayer?
Become — What is God inviting you to receive and thereby become as you pray this prayer?

Heartfelt Prayers: Receive Grace

Praying

Receive Grace

O God, seeing as there is in Christ Jesus an infinite fullness of all that we can want or desire, May we all receive from him, grace upon grace; grace to pardon our sins, and subdue our iniquities; to justify our persons and to sanctify our souls; and to complete that holy change, that renewal of our hearts, Which will enable us to be transformed into the blessed image in which you created us. O make us all acceptable to be partakers of the inheritance of your saints in light. Amen.

— John Wesley

Reflection:

Behold — Where are the eyes of your heart drawn into this prayer?
Believe — How is your faith strengthened in this prayer?
Belong — Who are you recalling as you pray this prayer?
Become — What is God inviting you to receive and thereby become as you pray this prayer?

Heartfelt Prayers: The Serenity Prayer

Praying

The Serenity Prayer

God, grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time,
enjoying one moment at a time;
accepting hardship as a pathway to peace;
taking, as Jesus did,
this sinful world as it is,
not as I would have it;
trusting that You will make all things right
if I surrender to Your will;
so that I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with You forever in the next.
Amen.

— Reinhold Niebuhr

Reflection:

Behold — Where are the eyes of your heart drawn into this prayer?
Believe — How is your faith strengthened in this prayer?
Belong — Who are you recalling as you pray this prayer?
Become — What is God inviting you to receive and thereby become as you pray this prayer?

Heartfelt Prayers: Keith Green

Praying
Oh Lord, You’re beautiful
Your face is all I see
For when Your eyes are on this child
Your grace abounds to me
Oh Lord, please light the fire
That once burned bright and clean
Replace the lamp of my first love
That burns with holy fear
I want to take Your Word and shine it all around
But first help me just to live it, Lord
And when I’m doing well,
help me to never seek a crown
For my reward is giving glory to You.

— Keith Green

Before dying at the age of 28 in a plane crash in east Texas, he penned dozens of hit songs and contemporary hymns. Green owned and rented 7 houses in one neighborhood where he took in people in need, including former prostitutes, drug addicts, bikers, single moms, and homeless people.

Reflection:
Behold — Where are the eyes of your heart drawn into this prayer?
Believe — How is your faith strengthened in this prayer?
Belong — Who are you recalling as you pray this prayer?
Become — What is God inviting you to receive and thereby become as you pray this prayer?

Heartfelt Prayers: Trust

Praying

Trust

My God, let me know and love you, so that I may find my happiness in you. Since I cannot fully achieve this on earth, help me to improve daily until I may do so to the full. Enable me to know you ever more on earth, so that I may know you perfectly in heaven. In that way my joy may be great on earth, and perfect with you in heaven. O God of truth, grant me the happiness of heaven so that my joy may be full in accord with your promise. In the meantime let my mind dwell on that happiness, my tongue speak of it, my heart pine for it, my mouth pronounce it, my soul hunger for it, my flesh thirst for it, and my entire being desire it until I enter through death in the joy of my Lord forever. Amen.

— St. Augustine

Reflection:

Behold — Where are the eyes of your heart drawn into this prayer?
Believe — How is your faith strengthened in this prayer?
Belong — Who are you recalling as you pray this prayer?
Become — What is God inviting you to receive and thereby become as you pray this prayer?

Heartfelt Prayers: You Over Me

Praying

You Over Me

Lord Jesus, let me know myself and know You, and desire nothing save only You.
Let me hate myself and love You.
Let me do everything for the sake of You.
Let me humble myself and exalt You.
Let me think of nothing except You.
Let me die to myself and live in You.
Let me accept whatever happens as from You.
Let me banish self and follow You, and ever desire to follow You.
Let me fly from myself and take refuge in You,
That I may deserve to be defended by You.
Let me fear for myself.
Let me fear You, and let me be among those who are chosen by You.
Let me distrust myself and put my trust in You.
Let me be willing to obey for the sake of You.
Let me cling to nothing save only to You,
And let me be poor because of You.
Look upon me, that I may love You.
Call me that I may see You, and for ever enjoy You. Amen.

— St. Augustine

Reflection:

Behold — Where are the eyes of your heart drawn into this prayer?
Believe — How is your faith strengthened in this prayer?
Belong — Who are you recalling as you pray this prayer?
Become — What is God inviting you to receive and thereby become as you pray this prayer?

Heartfelt Prayers: Indwelling of the Spirit

Praying

Indwelling of the Spirit

Holy Spirit, powerful Consoler, sacred Bond of the Father and the Son, Hope of the afflicted, descend into my heart and establish in it your loving dominion. Enkindle in my tepid soul the fire of your Love so that I may be wholly subject to you. We believe that when you dwell in us, you also prepare a dwelling for the Father and the Son. Deign, therefore, to come to me, Consoler of abandoned souls, and Protector of the needy. Help the afflicted, strengthen the weak, and support the wavering. Come and purify me. Let no evil desire take possession of me. You love the humble and resist the proud. Come to me, glory of the living, and hope of the dying. Lead me by your grace that I may always be pleasing to you. Amen.

— St. Augustine

Reflection:

Behold — Where are the eyes of your heart drawn into this prayer?
Believe — How is your faith strengthened in this prayer?
Belong — Who are you recalling as you pray this prayer?
Become — What is God inviting you to receive and thereby become as you pray this prayer?

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