Gospel Mt 1:18-24
They will call him Emmanuel, a name which means ‘God-is-with-us.’
The story of the nativity of Jesus is happily a familiar story for the vast majority of us. Sometimes though this familiarity can result in us glossing over important, but otherwise inconspicuous details in the story.
The name Emmanuel, we are told means ‘God-is-with-us.’ Such a bold statement deserves a little unpacking.
Often we think of this event of Christ’s coming amongst us as a man as an event that occurred in the past. Jesus, Emmanuel, is then conceived merely as ‘God-was-with-us’ – here though, we are presented with the tremendous claim that God is (and remains) with us.
These words remind us that the reality of Christ’s coming was not only a once-off event that occurred some 2000 years ago in some backwater of what is now modern day Israel. No. The faith we have is not mere memory of something that has come and gone. A memory of a past event cannot sustain us for that long – it cannot answer the deepest questions of our heart.
Our faith is born of an encounter – an encounter with a real person who continues to come, who remains with us, (Cf. DCE,1).
The event of the Incarnation remains the essence of our faith. His Incarnation, instantiated in a particular time and place, is now universal – Christ comes amongst us through Word and Sacrament, through acts of charity, through the testimony of the mystical Body of Christ, the Church throughout the ages.
As this season of advent reaches its climax, the longing of our hearts intensifies. We await his coming again in Glory at the end of time, and we watch and wait for His coming in the interim.
Let us continue to pray that we would remain attentive to His coming amongst us. Let us live this Advent season intensely as we await, in joyful hope, the coming of our Saviour, Jesus Christ.
Point to Ponder
‘The fact of the incarnation, this inconceivable Christian claim, has remained in history in its substance and entirety: a man who is God–who thus knows man–and whom man must follow if he is to have true knowledge of himself and all things. This initial experience has an unequivocal meaning: destiny has not left man alone. It is an event which was announced throughout the centuries and which reaches us even today. The real problem at hand is that man recognize this with love.’
– Luigi Giussani, At the Origin of the Christian Claim, 107.