God is with us. It is an experience, a few in the world enjoys. It is a privilege the entire creation desires for and it is an offer many in the world deprived off. It is impenetrable that God emptied himself for the salvation of humankind, but it is intelligible that God is with us; Emmanuel.
Christmas is the time for the entire human race to be united with God and to be one with his fellow being. The texts from Holy Scriptues and early documentations demonstrate the nature of Christmas as love giving. No one is eliminated from the list of salvation and heavenly fellowship. But the question is how the present man is receptive and open towards this lavish generosity of God. The present world in its peripheral outlook acts to be Happy and engaged heavily with the comforts of social media and web friendship. But he or she within them feel isolation and experience that they are alone, when they fail in their relationships, or fall prey to dangerous illness or collapse into financial looses. This crisis makes the modern man to neglect the aspect of spiritual interactions with God and forgets to celebrate the lasting happiness. But the Word of God clearly emphasizes in all its majesty that God is Emmanuel and he is always with the man in his sorrows, joys and all ups and downs in the schema of our lives. The evaluation of the term ‘Emmanuel’ will certainly make every man to overcome his limitation of not being with God.
The word ‘Emmanuel’ comes from two Hebrew words, immanu, ‘with us’, and el, ‘God’. The name ‘Emmanuel’ undoubtedly points out the widespread biblical theme of God’s presence with His people. The idea of “God with us” is the actualization of all of God’s promises to Israel and to all who will trust in him by the birth of Christ. We may think that the Emmanuel prophecy took its shape and origin from the book of Isaiah (Is 7:14). But I would rather evaluate that God is with us from the creation till the end of time. And the incarnation of Jesus Christ enabled the man to have a proximate feel of the same, Emmanuel! Jesus is the definitive realization of this theme. His life was a journey projecting an amalgamation of paradoxes and an anthology of absurd experiences. An omnipotent God became a fragile man, king of heaven and earth become a man in a manger, and creator of everything became a man embracing abject poverty. Why?
He went through this sore process of kenosis in order to be with man always. Through this sacrifice and mercy, God makes a way to be with his people, whether Israel in the Old Testament or the Church in the New Testament, all leading up to God’s final act in Revelation 21:3: “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.” This is the confidence God gives to his people but it is surprising that the humanity doesn’t realize this unfathomable love of God.
Filo of Alexandria, a Jewish Philosopher and contemporary of Christ, contributed the sensational expression; “know yourself” once added an explanatory note to this caption that “It is not the anatomical knowledge of once own body nor psychological knowledge of the mind nor the moral knowledge of our behaviour but what is important is how can one be transformed.” And I would interpret this transforming knowledge as Emmanuel that is Christ Himself. It is a knowledge that God is always by my side. This realizations in this Christmas season leads us into two conclusions, God is with us and be another Emmanuel for others.
Matthew 1:23 will make it clear “Behold! The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call Him Emmanuel which means, God with us.” The birth of Jesus, the Holy One of Israel, the Messiah and Savoir of all men, has made a way for “God to be with us.” In the Gospel of Luke we see the Angel’s dialogue with Mary where he said that God is with her. In fact the pregnancy of a teenage girl is a terrible situation of marginalization but she humbly agreed to cooperate for the salvation of the entire humanity with the confidence that God is with her. The poor shepherds of Bethlehem, a group of sidelined nomads jumped with Joy throwing away their anxieties, because they experienced that God is with them. The nobles of the east went back joyfully surrendering their precious belongings and disobeying the dangerous royal command, because they realized that God is Emmanuel. I was trying to say that this season of Christmas should lead us into the realization that God is with us, when we are out casted, marginalized and isolated. Emmanuel becomes the answer when we are puzzled with answerless problems. And Emmanuel becomes the healing when we are hounded by incurable illness.
“The Word became flesh and dwelt among us”(Jn 1:14). These words of St. John remind us that God has become a human person like us. The aim of His ‘Emmanuelness’ is his total participation and solidarity with our weakness and mortality. The beauty of this God is in his generosity to put on himself our ‘ugliness’. It is a model and an invitation for all to be ‘Emmanuels’. St. Paul writes that “Now you are the body of Christ and each of you is a member of it” (1 Cor 12:27). We have a responsibility to become ‘Emmanuel for our neighbours who are in need. Christ entered into our ugliness and we should bear witness to him by entering into the pitiable situations and contaminated conditions of our fellow brethren.
Christmas is love in action. It is Christmas when we love others and share our time and things with others. Inactiveness, indifference and respire have no place to dominate a Christian life. The reason is that the source behind our strength is a proximate and accompanying God. This Christmas is a call for us to come into the realization that God is Emmanuel. Let me conclude with the words of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, “We realize that today’s world, where God is absent, is dominated by fear, by uncertainty. Nonetheless the words, ‘be joyful because the God is with you and with us,’ truly open a new time.”
Fr Sebin Mundackal CMF