Fourth Sunday of Advent
Gospel: Matthew 1: 18-24
Have you ever thought of comprising the whole Bible into one word? No answer sounds better than ‘Emmanuel’. No message is so central to the Bible as the meaning of Emmanuel: God is with us.
The Bible unveils God who loves to walk with Adam and Eve in Paradise. When they proved themselves unworthy of divine company, God did not abandon them totally; He promised them a Son who will eventually break the head of the treacherous serpent. God proved to be with them through their struggles.
The Old Testament pictures humanity constantly at struggle. And simultaneously it draws the picture of God who in spite of the rejections received, preferred to be with the people in all their struggles. Thus, in Gen 5: 24, we read of Enoch who walked faithfully with God; he was taken to God. The great patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had their own struggles and God was with them (Gen 12-50). When the house of Israel was enslaved in Egypt, God intervened in a special way to liberate them. During the 40 years in the desert God was with them day and night in the pillar of cloud, and in the pillar of fire respectively. (Ex 13:21-22). Even when they forgot the liberating Yahweh, and drifted away from Him, He did not abandon them; He was with them correcting their course time and again. They could occupy the land promised to their forefathers not because they were valiant, but because Yahweh was with them, and was fighting for them.
Yahweh was with them during the days of judges and the kings, although the house of Israel constantly drifted away from the presence of God. He sent them prophets and holy men to bring them back to His presence. In short, the Old Testament is the history of God struggling to be with the people; struggling, because the people preferred to drift away rather than be with God.
The New Testament is the history of God who dwelt among us as the Word of God made flesh (Jn 1:14).
He was Emmanuel -God with us- for the best and holiest couple in the world: Joseph and Mary. They were poor, they were hungry, they were homeless, and they were refugees; all because they committed themselves to house Him. Theirs was the best Emmanuel experience. Ever since the holy conception they were and are with Emmanuel. Emmanuel does not promise a struggle-free life. Only the devil can promise an easy life on earth, and he does not care about fulfilling his promises. Emmanuel is a promise and assurance that God is with us no matter what. You may be poor, betrayed, failed, struggling, sick, or lonely but Christmas is a promise that God is with you, He is Emmanuel for you.
He was Emmanuel for the apostles; they were neither perfect nor belonged to the high society. The sinners, the lepers, the publicans, the widows, the poor, the sick, the lame, and the blind: all of them had the Emmanuel experience. They experienced God with them because they were open to Jesus. They returned to their struggles with the great assurance that God is with them.
The Pentecost reaffirmed to the Church that he is Emmanuel forever. That confidence made them bold in front of great persecution and death. Saints and martyrs through the centuries proclaim that He is Emmanuel and there is absolutely no reason to be scared.
Through Christmas, God wants to tell you: ‘I am with you.’ It is an invitation to repent, it is a significant assurance, and it is a matter of great joy. The Babe in the manger is Emmanuel; He is the God with you!