Matthew 1:23 “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him
Immanuel”–which means, “God with us.”
I’ve always embraced and felt comfortable with this particular verse and in seeing the fullness
of Jesus in this passage. I am also often reminded about how some individuals “come to us as Christ
does”…reminders of the presence, power and faithfulness of God himself. There are several people in
my life for whom that is true. One of them is my experience with Emmanuel Ndabarushimana, an ironic
and priceless name to be sure in this season.
Emmanuel reminded me that in the great gift of Christ in this season Christ’s gift is not just for me
but is also for others. My character, my behaviour, my generosity must all be influenced, subject and
congruent with the gift of generosity of the Christ child. Emmanuel helped me with one part of the
mystery of generosity; after I tell you the story of our lunch I hope that you will understand how he
helped me to see that “saving something we’ve been given so someone else who does not have might
receive”, is the essence of Advent.
Emmanuel and I decided to go for lunch. I asked him where he wanted to go and he made a
suggestion. We talked about food and culture as we walked over to the restaurant. I should add that
Emmanuel comes from Burundi. A conversation about food and the richness of African culture is an
interesting and intense conversation. A conversation about British culture and food, until recently, has
been a conversation that is both boring and short. Emmanuel talked about the importance of meat in
his culture and we both talked about how expensive meat has become for the average dinner table. Out
of that discussion, when we arrived at the restaurant (happened to be Greek), I encouraged Emmanuel
to order the lamb and so we ordered, received our meal, gave thanks, and engaged in conversation.
About 20 minutes into the meal I noticed that Emmanuel had left his food virtually untouched. This
reluctance given his enthusiasm around our anticipated meal puzzled me. At this point in the story,
I want to tell you that Emmanuel has given me permission to tell this story; partly because I keep
reminding him how helpful and instructive the example of his generosity has been for me. I also need to
tell you that Emmanuel, while he has gone back to Burundi to minister, had two preteen children with
him in Vancouver; a girl and a boy. As his food remained untouched, my mind raced to figure out why he
wasn’t eating and finally I just said to him:
“Emmanuel, you haven’t touched your food”
He looked startled, embarrassed, awkward, and gave the impression that he did not have words
to respond. I felt awkward too. So I let the other shoe drop… “Emmanuel, you are not eating because
you are saving your meal for you and the children to have supper tonight.”…he looked relieved. I said
“Emmanuel, we are going to order another dinner for tonight, let’s eat lunch”…and we did.
Emmanuel reminded me of many things that day. To be sure, there is the gift of the Christ child
at Christmas and the urging within us that we have to share the gift we have been given but more
importantly, Emmanuel gave me the most simple and basic introduction to the person and work of
Christ and that is to inconvenience myself (the essential story of the incarnation) and secondly, that
unless we are willing to give of self and selflessly we are not giving much at all.
Immanuel, which means God with us, Immanuel, God through Emmanuel Ndabarushimana, vividly
or present with me.
Thanks to all of you who attended the Banff Pastors and Spouses Conference this year and have given us
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appreciate hearing from all of you, as we look to plan the 2013 conference.