God Is With Us
St. Matthew interprets the name Emmanuel to mean God-is-with-us. St. John Chrysostom asks a good question, why was he not named Emmanuel son of Joseph, or Emmanuel of Nazareth, or Emmanuel Christ. St. John then says that the event itself and the outcome of the birth of Jesus will cause people to recognize that Jesus is in fact the Emmanuel, God-with-us.
Admittedly, St. John observes, God has always been with us but never before has He been so openly among us. It is a wonderful observation and we should keep it in mind as we prepare for and celebrate Christmas. The realization that God lives among us, as one of us, like us, makes Christmas more than the innocent image of a baby lying in a manger surrounded by animals, angels, peasants and kings. The story and the image make us realize that God decided to come and live with us.
The Gospel teaching of Jesus places strong emphasis on what He called the Kingdom of God. John the Baptist said it was coming, Jesus said it was already here. Jesus had much to say about this Kingdom and its presence. It is the whole context of his teaching and of his healing miracles. According to the Gospels, the Kingdom of God is a new era of godliness that comes about by divine intervention and made known in the life of Jesus. God’s Kingdom is not confined to any particular place or to any human realm, or to any historical period of time or earthly political or religious system – although it includes elements of all of these. It does not belong to human beings to control or manipulate, although we share intimately in its existence and we are invited to promote its growth and development.
The birth of Jesus and the Kingdom he proclaimed is about a transformation: a new world order characterized by the presence among us of a God capable of creating relationships based on justice, love, compassion and peace, something political realms and religions cannot achieve. The birth of Christ means that God has irrevocably entered our lives. He has turned our worldly socioeconomic, political and religious structures upside down. He has declared the powerless and the marginalized ‘blessed’. Emmanuel, Jesus the Christ, has dissolved himself into our human history.
Our commemoration of Christ’s birth at Christmas challenges us to commit ourselves to a Kingdom marked by a correct relationship with God and with each another based on justice, compassion, love and peace. Only in this Kingdom will we find the true meaning of the name Emmanuel.
Christ Is Born – Glorify Him
Blessings, Fr. Timothy
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