When the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon and told him "The Lord is with you, mighty man of valor," Gideon's response was somewhat valid. "If the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us?"
Gideon's people were being plundered and slaughtered. Their land was overrun by the cruel and vicious Midianite raiders. They were helpless against the pillaging, and it seemed like the Lord was doing nothing to stop it. "If the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us?"
Mary and Joseph lived in a similar situation. The promised land, the land that God had given to their fathers (and that used to be ruled by their father, David), was owned by the Romans. They had to pay tribute, and endure long journeys to complete a census on the whim of Augustus Caesar. "If the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us?"
The weight of reality has not changed since their time. Today, we hear of and experience horrific things happening in our world. It's easy to be afraid; it's easy to feel alone. It's easy to point to the darkness and say "Lord, I thought you were with us. Why then has all this happened to us?"
But Christmas is coming. And it's the final answer to the question is the Lord with us?
Because the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and He chose the name Emmanuel, which means, yes, God is with us.
What is broken has not yet been made whole. But Jesus Christ has come. He has come to be with us, to live in the filth and sin and curse. His blessings flow outward, far as the curse is found, seeking every corner of darkness. We are shortsighted, like Gideon standing in a winepress, and we point to all the darkness that are still left, and ask "Why?" The Lord did not answer this question in Gideon's day. He only told him "Go save Israel, for I am the one who sends you." And then "I will be with you."
Maybe it's not given to us to know why. But we do know that we are not alone.
He has told us that He will rule until death has been destroyed. He has told us that He came to break our chains of sin and idolatry. He has said that He is the light to banish darkness, the Comforter who heals the brokenhearted, who will wipe away every tear.
Until then, He is here with us. We do not face the darkness alone.
"Because of the tender mercy of our God,
the sunrise shall visit us from on high
to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace.”