23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”). Matt 1:23 NIV. 8 The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” Deut 31:8 NIV Recently a climber friend of mine spent 2 days alone on a big wall in Yosemite National Park. Through the experience she realized the value and companionship of having a climbing partner, and just how lonely a solo wilderness journey can be. As I reflected on her report of the experience, I thought of the times I have been solo in the backcountry. While I’ve never experienced the intensity of being on a big wall solo, I have enjoyed the lack of distraction and peaceful focus that my times of wilderness solitude have brought me, but they brought me something else as well. When you are miles from civilization without another human being to rely on, there is always this gnawing sense of alertness and apprehension in the back of your mind, reminding you that there is no back up, no immediate human help or comfort if things go wrong. It’s an edge to these experiences that I’ve always struggled with. As we celebrate the Christmas season we are thankful for family, friends, and the many blessings of life, but the greatest promise of Christmas is Immanuel – God with us. When Christ came to this earth as a human babe, His arrival did something truly amazing: it forever breached the gap between God and Man. Christmas means that we never have to be alone. This truth has become so real to me in recent weeks as the Lord has reminded me again and again that His presence is the greatest gift of all, and that through all the struggles and difficulties of life He will never leave me, and will never forsake me. This Christmas may you rejoice in the miracle that is the incarnation of Jesus Christ. May you know His love and forgiveness deep within the very core of your being. May you rest secure in the knowledge that once Christ has taken up residence upon the throne of your heart you are never alone.