December 17, 2021

Advent Reflections of With-ness

Written by Sarah Bourns Crosby

For the last three weeks, we’ve explored how this season of Advent is for those who wait, for those who wander, and for those who weep.
Because right in the middle of the hard and heavy, we come to know Christ’s hope, peace, and joy more intimately.

This weekend, we light the fourth candle of LOVE.
And we remember that ultimately, through our waiting, wandering, and weeping, advent is all about our God who wants to be WITH.
Jesus didn’t “work remotely” as many of us have grown all too familiar with.  He chose to be in-person, live, face-to-face, side by side
The very meaning of Christ’s name, Immanuel, is “God WITH Us.”

I wrote this poem, WITH, exactly one year ago when I was newly navigating a long-distance relationship with my now husband Paul. 
It surprised me one day to realize that I must indeed be falling in love with him (!?!) precisely because love just wants to be withIt needs to be near.
Long distance no longer felt sustainable. It just wasn’t good to be far apart; it wasn’t right to be separated. It was best to be together. It was more natural to be with him than without him.
Similarly, God was not content to have a long-distance relationship with His people. He would no longer only be transcendent and high above, but chose to come near and dwell here, below. 

May you know His WITH-ness today.


Love wants to be with
Love needs to be near
Love can’t stay away
Love has to be here

Love comes close
Love holds tight
Love moves over
Love sits beside

Love pours out
Love leans in
Love goes first
Love tries again

Love leaps over hurdles
Love jumps through hoops
Love stays despite struggles
Love still chooses you

Love can’t stay six feet apart
Love won’t wander off too far
Love puts back together broken hearts
Love doesn’t give up, even when it’s hard


LOVE becomes flesh
LOVE moves in
LOVE lives here  
LOVE dwells among

LOVE is within us
Close by us
Around us
Beside us
The very definition of LOVE is: WITH

Near enough to touch
His presence here to dwell
God. With. Us. 
Our Immanuel.

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” John 1:14

May it be so.
Again and again and again.

A   P R A C T I C E 

Jesus, the Eternal Word, became flesh and blood and moved into the neighborhood.
His Body mattered long before the cross.

It mattered enough for Him to become MATTER—an actual living, breathing, feeling, sensing Being. To take on every aspect of becoming a real human and walking around in a body just like ours. 
So then, our bodies, our flesh and bones, matter too


Today, we practice experiencing the coming of Christ with our five physical senses. I invite you to engage your body in sensing the WITH-NESS of God, here and now: 

1. Listen . . . Whether you hear a crackling fire, or loud sirens, or children whining…  How might you HEAR Jesus in the midst of your day today? What would He say?
2. Look . . .Lift your head, peek out the window, open your eyes wider, gaze farther. What do you see? Look again. Where might Jesus direct your glance and show you a little of Himself right around you?
3. Smell . . . Ah, there are SO many scents to inhale at Christmas time…  cinnamon, grandma’s casserole, vanilla, pine. Breathe in deep… what do you think God’s home smells like? What scents do you associate with warmth, joy, love, and peace? Could His presence be near, even in those. 
4. Touch . . .Run your fingers through a kiddo’s hair, snuggle with the dog, hug your friend a little tighter, squeeze your spouse’s hand… Soak in the touch of a loved one as if it were from Christ himself. Let the power of presence bring healing, from head to toe.
5. Taste . . . Eat, drink, and be merry today. God didn’t have to make taste buds, or food that is delicious or coffee that is divine. These are purely for our enjoyment. So. Enjoy. Eat that treat that makes you want to close your eyes and savor slowly. Go back for seconds. And give thanks.  

May our five senses remind us of the embodied Word of God who became flesh to dwell here among us. 

A   P R A Y E R
of blessing for the lonely this Christmas… (Using our five senses)

May you boldly reach out
And touch
The hem
Of His garment
Or a friend’s
Warm embrace.

May you pay close attention
To hear
His gentle voice
Comforting you
Or their loud laughter
Cheering you.

May you open wide your eyes 
And see
The winter sunset
He painted for you
Or the messy marshmallow art
She made for you. 

May you draw in a deep full breath
And smell
The goodness of God like grandma’s cookies
The gentleness of God like fragrant pine trees
The kindness of God like warm apple pie
The nearness of God like a new baby snuggled tight.

And may you slowly savor
The taste
Of bread and wine
As it lingers and reminds
You of His body, His blood.
Of His Body, His Bride.
Of your body and mine
These sacred spaces
Where He still chooses 
To abide.

More of Sarah’s works can be found at or @sarahbournscrosby on Instagram.