“All right then, the Lord himself will give you the sign. Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God is with us’).” (Isaiah 7:14 NLT)
Julia Child first came to national attention with the publication of her first book, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, co-authored with Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle. Just two years after its publication, Child was given another platform for spreading her love of fine food: her own cooking show, The French Chef.
The first episode of The French Chef aired in February 1963. Just one year later, Child earned a Peabody Award for her work on the show, followed by a Primetime Emmy in 1966. The same year she earned her Emmy, Time magazine noted, “Let Julia Child so much as mention vanilla wafers, and the shelves are empty overnight.” Her influence in the kitchen was unparalleled.
By all appearances, The French Chef was a one-woman show. To be sure, there were camera operators and other personnel who assisted in getting each episode to living rooms across the continent, but Child was alone in the kitchen; she had no sous chef or assistant to help her. Yet despite appearances to the contrary, she was not alone. A behind-the-scenes picture from the first year of The French Chef shows a side view of Child at the kitchen counter where she worked, with five individuals seated on the floor behind her and off to the side. Due to the low budget of the show, Child would only get one chance to make that week’s dish, and there was no accounting for time to rifle through cabinets, cupboards, or fridge. In the picture, each of the five people on the floor is holding a dish or an ingredient or a utensil that Child will need at some point during the show.
This image of Julia Child in the middle of her element being assisted by a collection of others, allowing her to do what she did so well, is similar to what God does with us. He does not leave us to fend for ourselves; he is right there with us in the midst of our everyday lives, both the mundane and the extraordinary. This is what it means when we talk about Jesus as Immanuel – “God with us.” Through the omnipresence of the Holy Spirit, God is able to be with us, supporting us and helping us be the best version of ourselves.
This concept of God with us is not just theology, it is also our example to follow. If we are striving to be like Jesus, we must work to be with people in the midst of their everyday lives, both mundane and extraordinary. We, too, must practice being with our neighbors, friends, family, coworkers, and even strangers.
Are you willing to be the kind of person who metaphorically, or maybe literally, sits on the floor to be with other people and support them through all their highs and lows and help them be the best version of themselves? If not, invite the Holy Spirit to work with you so that you might reflect Jesus’s heart to be with others.
Michael Benson is the communications director for the North American Baptist Conference.