December 14

December 14
RUTH 1:16–17
But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.” 
 A major theme in Advent is that Christ comes to us as Emmanuel, which means “God with us.” As we move through Jesus’ faith family history, drawing on stories of people who walked with God in exemplary ways, and connecting them to the life of Christ, we come to Ruth. Ruth is a model of what it means for Jesus to stay with us through all we experience.
A few years ago I had major reconstructive surgery on my foot. It would be months before I could walk normally again, and the physiotherapy was grueling. One day, alone in pain and feeling as if the ordeal would never end, I received a text from a dear brother in Christ. He asked if now would be a good time for him to come over. I told him I wouldn’t be much company, but sure.
There in my living room, my foot propped up and my mind foggy from medication, we sat. We talked about anything and everything under the sun. There were long lulls in the conversation. If I wasn’t so distracted by the pain it would have felt awkward. The lulls didn’t seem to matter to him. I kept wondering when he would think it was time for him to leave. But he seemed to have nowhere else to be. After a while, I realized what was happening. He had just come to be there, to sit with me in my struggle. He had come to stay a while, sit a spell, take a load off—with me. He had come to listen, to make me laugh, and to be a friend to me in my season of hard healing. Maybe you have a friend who has done the same for you.
Maybe you have been that friend. The friendship and family kinship between Ruth and her motherin-law, Naomi, is one for the history books. Ruth, a Moabite, was devoted to her Israelite mother-in-law after the death of their male family members. In Ruth 1:16–17, she says the words that forever endear her to the Jewish people: “Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay.” Ruth stayed. She eventually marries Boaz, her kinsman-redeemer (that’s worth a study sometime), and becomes a part of the family line of the Incarnate Son of God, Jesus. A woman who stays is part of the family line of the Lord who stays—the Lord who stays with us through it all. Stay.
In John  15:4–5, Jesus says these words to his disciples: “Remain in me, as I also remain in you. . . . If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit.” The Greek word for “remain,” also translated “abide,” is the word meno—put simply, it means to stay. In other words, stay a while. Sit a spell. Don’t go anywhere. Remain—without needing to leave. He calls us to stay in him, and tells us that he will stay in, with, us. Emmanuel, God with us. There it is for our Advent reclaiming—Jesus is the Staying Lord.
Advent reminds us that the covenant loyalty and love God showed in history is the same covenant loyalty he shows us now in Christ. The gap between our Creator and us has been bridged by the presence of Jesus. He’s not going anywhere. Neither should we. Jesus, no matter what you are going through, is your Staying Lord. He is the present, remaining, Emmanuel, God-with-us King—and he is in no rush to leave your side. He is with you in sweet conversation, today, by his Spirit working within you. No matter where you are, in a hopeless valley of the heart, or on a mountaintop of highest praise, Jesus stays with you. He’s here, with you—all the way.
 Staying Lord, we desire to remain in you, and to have you remain in us. Our hearts are prone to wander, Jesus, as the old hymn says, but this Advent we choose to reorient ourselves to your unshakeable, unrelenting, loving presence in our lives. We take comfort in your nearness to us as we walk together through the days and weeks ahead in this Christian New Year. We’re not letting go; we will stay with you just as you stay with us. In Jesus’ name, amen.
 • Have you ever felt the Lord staying with you, hanging in there with you, when others couldn’t give you what you needed in time or attention? As you remember, bless him, praise him, thank him, for never leaving you or forsaking you (Heb. 13:5).

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