The bells of York Minster were ringing outside my office window earlier, chiming the hymn ‘O come, O come Emmanuel’ – an ancient Advent hymn that in part goes back to the 8th Century. Emmanuel means ‘God with us’. That’s one of the names of Jesus in the bible (Matthew 1:23). God-with-us.

At Advent we think about the God who came to be present, not absent. The God who came to be close, not far away. The God who came to be here, not somewhere else. God-with-us.

Sometimes I hear people say that they’d love to meet God face-to-face. Well, if you’d have lived 2,000 years ago in first Century Palestine you could have seen him walking round and changing people’s lives. His name was Jesus. God-with-us.

At Advent we remember that we are not alone. Ever. Even when finances are tight or work is stressful or relationships are difficult, we are not alone. That’s why it’s good to reach out to the One who is closer than we think. God-with-us.

We used Psalm 46 in morning prayers this morning. As well as hearing stories of God at work in our lives we also prayed for the sick and the struggling, praying they’d know that ‘The Lord Almighty is with us; the God us Jacob is our fortress.’ Those are great words reminding us that Jesus’ presence can be experienced today as we welcome him into our hearts and homes. He longs to cleanse, heal and renew, bringing the transforming power of God. Because he is Emmanuel. God-with-us.

For all the joy and pleasure of giving and receiving gifts, Advent and Christmas is less about presents and more about presence. The presence of God. God-with-us.

When was the last time you prayed ‘O come, O come Emmanuel?’ – God-with-us? Why not pray that prayer today for yourself and for someone in need?