The Oratory Larne Last Night
I cannot remember ever meeting anyone with the name Emmanuel until I came to Belfast in 1978 at the age of 26.
Then, all of a sudden, I met a whole lot of Emmanuel’s on the Fall’s Road.
The Belfast people have a habit of shortening names – especially complicated names like Emmanuel.
So all the Emmanuel’s I met in Belfast were called “Bap” – Bap McAreavey, Bap Dundon, Bap Stitt.
I have never been able to work out how you get Bap out of Emmanuel.
So, I did what many people do these days – I searched the meaning of Bap on the internet and I found:
• Your name, Bap, creates an independent, determined, and persevering nature.
• You desire to work on your own or at least where you are making your own decisions.
• You enjoy working with your hands and can be resourceful and inventive along practical lines.
• Being much focused on your pursuits, at times you overlook the personal considerations and attentions that create understanding and companionship with others.
• This name causes you to suffer with self-consciousness in new situations and an inability to be diplomatic when situations warrant.
• You are loyal in friendships and express candidly.
• You enjoy outdoors activities with a few close friends.
• Tension could affect the eyes, ears, teeth, or sinuses. Frequent head colds or headaches.
So, there you go – someone out there is an expert on the name Bap – and I am wiser today that I have been for over 60 years.
We meet today to remember and be with the most famous Emmanuel ever – our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ.
He was indeed independent, determined and persevering.
He did work on His own and made His own decisions – doing the will of His Father and in companionship with his disciples.
He enjoyed working with His hands as he was a carpenter.
He was focused on his pursuits and some people liked Him and others hated Him.
I don’t think He was self-conscious in new situations and he was not always diplomatic.
And I don’t think He suffered head colds in the nice warm climate of Israel
We know that from the point of view of the Bible and our Christian faith, Emmanuel means “God is with us”. The prophet Isaiah used it 700 years before Jesus came when he told the leader of his people, Ahaz who was under military siege, that God was with him.
We who believe in Jesus, hopefully, are aware at all times, the good times and the bad times, that God is with us?
But, of course, it probably becomes more important to us, that God is with us in the bad times when we feel “under siege.
For each person those sieges differ:
We might be sick or have a loved one who is sick?
We might be struggling financially?
We might be experiencing problems in our families and relationships?
We might be suffering with depression or anxiety?
We might be experiencing loss or grief?
We might be trapped in an unbearable job or an unbearable marriage?
We might be living with painful memories or harbouring an oppressing secret?
There are so many forms of suffering and pain that are possible.
We see it everyday on our television screens.
And therefore, it is more important than ever that we have a reason to have hope.
St. Peter said in his first letter:
“But in your hearts honour Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to defend yourself to anyone who asks you for the reason that you have the hope you have”.
And the reason that those of us who are gathered here today have hope is because we believe in Emmanuel – we believe that God is with us.
That does not mean that our lives will always be easy.
But it does mean that, easy or hard, our lives will always have meaning.
The great philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche once said:
“HE WHO HAS A WHY TO LIVE
CAN BEAR ALMOST ANY HOW”.
Our WHY is Jesus Christ – Emmanuel.
He will see us through any, and every HOW.
Corrie Ten Boom was a Dutch watchmaker who work with her father. She helped many Jews escape the Nazis and when she was caught she was sent to a concentration camp. The wrote the following poem to express how and why she never lost hope and hope in God.
MY LIFE IS BUT A WEAVING
“My life is but a weaving
Between my God and me.
I cannot choose the colours
He weaveth steadily.
Oft’ times He weaveth sorrow;
And I in foolish pride
Forget He sees the upper
And I the underside.
Not ’til the loom is silent
And the shuttles cease to fly
Will God unroll the canvas
And reveal the reason why.
The dark threads are as needful
In the weaver’s skillful hand
As the threads of gold and silver
In the pattern He has planned
He knows, He loves, He cares;
Nothing this truth can dim.
He gives the very best to those
Who leave the choice to Him.”
― Corrie ten Boom
I don’t know about you? But I trust the Weaver more than I trust myself.