By Lynn Stob, Worship Director

Twice a week for a few hours, I have the joy of singing, dancing, and exploring the gift of music through the eyes of precious five- and six-year-old kids.

A few weeks ago, during one of my classes, we had a lockdown drill. We were in the middle of doing our rhythm sticks (which can be a little loud). An automated voice came over the loudspeaker, initiating a lockdown. The kids froze. They became silent and just looked at me with a mix of panic and confusion. We put our sticks away, turned off our lights, and they quickly and quietly followed me into a storage room. I instructed them to huddle together in the corner near me, and we then turned off all the lights.

There are no windows in this storage room, only a crack of light visible from beneath the doors leading to the hallway. In the darkness, we sat. I told them to remain still and quiet, and they behaved perfectly. In the silence, we sat. Our eyes adjusted slightly, and I could see the outline of their faces. Then I saw the first hand reach out toward me—just a hand extending towards me and the child’s face quietly saying, “Touch my hand.” She needed to know that I was there and that everything would be ok. I reached out and squeezed her hand and whispered, “You are doing great. I’m right here. We’re almost done.” Satisfied, she shrank back into the group. It wasn’t but another 30 seconds, and the next child reached out to me. Again, I reassured them of my presence and that the drill was almost over.

Before long, I received the message that the drill was over. We were able to turn the lights back on, talk to each other, leave the storage room, and enter our classroom again. Of course, they were more interested in discussing what had just happened for the remainder of our time together than going back to rhythm sticks! But when their teacher picked them up to head back to class, I told her where we went for the drill and how well they did. She said to them that she had to do the lockdown drill all by herself in her room since they were with me in music class. They all giggled, picturing her by herself, huddled in the dark corner of her room. But this whole adventure hit me on a deeper level.

I started to think about our Advent series this year: God With Us.

All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”). — Matthew 1:22-23

Immanuel has got to be one of the most comforting of all the names of Jesus. Immanuel, God with us. Our sins made it impossible for us to come to God, so out of his extreme love, he came to us in human form. Immanuel, God with us.

We are not sitting in a room, in the dark, huddled in the corner by ourselves. God is with us. We can reach out to him; he squeezes our hand and says, “I am right here with you.” When the pain and sorrow overwhelm our hearts, he says, “I too feel your sorrow—I am with you.” When the situation is scary, he says, “You are doing great. I am with you.” When we feel like we can’t carry on, he says, “It’s almost over. I am with you.”

This Advent season, may we take comfort in the fact that we indeed are never alone. No matter the challenge, no matter the obstacle, we are never alone. Whatever we need, God is with us. He offers strength, hope, joy, mercy, deliverance. Even when the world around us seems dark or when we can’t see him, reach out and know he is there. God will never leave us or forsake us. He is Immanuel, God with us.