“Rejoice, Rejoice Emmanuel has come to you O Israel.” This refrain from a classical hymn of the Advent Season prays for God (Emmanuel) to come to us (Israel). Emmanuel means God with us. The season of Advent leads us to the season of Christmas when we celebrate that God is with us. God is with us in the Infant Jesus born in Bethlehem. That Infant is the Son of Mary and the Son of God. He is Emmanuel. Truly, He is God with us. Truly, He is a human baby with complete human features and composition. Like all infants, He wants to be held; He is utterly helpless, totally dependent, wanting to be comforted, loved and made secure. That Infant is God enfleshed. He is Emmanuel.
Make your way to Him this Christmas as did the shepherds who were watching their flocks on the night of His birth; as did the Kings who travelled from afar. Make your way to the Holy Child who is the Son of God whose appearance in human flesh reveals the extravagant love and saving mercy of God for us. Open your hearts, even hearts that may have been distant from Him. Open your lives in hospitality and welcome because this child is born to rescue you. He is your Saviour. The world was in need of being saved when Emmanuel entered into it and took on our flesh. Our world still needs to be saved and Emmanuel is with us to do this for us. Could anyone receive a greater gift than the very presence of God who comes in our very humanity to save us?
One of the favored expressions of Pope Francis is the Spanish word encuentro which translates as encounter or meeting. However, encuentro means more than meeting. Encuentro means seeing and being changed by what you see, seeing God who is with the human race in the Baby of Bethlehem, who is the Emmanuel awaited by the prophets. The Holy Child helps us to see ourselves and each person as loved so much by God that God is Emmanuel. Never in the wildest imagination of those who expected a Saviour was it thought that God would be born in human flesh. The yearnings of the prophets of Israel for Emmanuel were realized at the birth of Jesus, a birth which went unnoticed by most of the world.
Let us take notice this Chrismastime and let us encourage others to do likewise. Let us see God with us and see God with others. Let that vision of God with us change us. Let us see all men and women worthy of the love of such a Saviour. What can we give this gift of God? We give Him faith and love. We give Him the witness of our lives. May Emmanuel be with you and yours this Christmastime. May He be with our communities, our church and our world. May you have a Blessed Christmas Season. And, throughout the New Year may you know that God is with you. “Behold the Virgin shall be with child and bear a son and they will name him Emmanuel”: A name which means God with us (Isaiah 7:14).