Emmanuel, God Is With Us

My father would often say to us, this is a home, not a house. That is, our home was very personal: colors, furniture, pictures reflected the relationship we held as a family. There were toys scattered about signaling play time, TV was on and the adults sat around the kitchen table with a good cup of coffee and great conversation. We lived in our home, our home celebrated who we were.

This Sunday’s gospel is about an engaged couple who are about to make a home together. However, Joseph is in a quandary! Mary is pregnant and not by him. We can only imagine the turmoil and the sense that his dream home has been smashed before he and his beloved even move in together.

The absolutely unexpected happens – an angel appears, reassures him, restoring his dream home! He is preparing a dwelling place for “Emmanuel…God is with us!”

Today, we are to make a home for Emmanuel. We are now to be the risen presence of Christ in our world, we are to make his gospel known. This is how “God is with us”.

Christmas is not just a day or a season. It is the mystery of making incarnate the God who loves us. Each of us is the God-bearer. Each of us is God’s home.

Emmanuel-God With Us

Several years ago, I was leading the Children’s Liturgy of the Word on this feast of Christmas. As we were reflecting on this feast, one of the children asked me, “Sister, were the shepherds any different after they visited Jesus?”

For years, that question has stayed with me. It didn’t take much for the shepherds to abandon their sheep and follow up on a strange message of angels! They saw the infant for themselves and then “they returned glorifying and praising God.” To whom or to what did they return? And were they changed because of their encounter with Christ? Did they return to their sheep? To their former way of a shepherding life? Maybe to some shepherds who didn’t go with them?

In trying to answer that child’s question, I said they returned with a difference. Their encounter with this infant stirred in their hearts and changed their lives forever.

We,too, are changed by our encounters with this Savior born to us. We are changed when we recognize and respond to this divine encounter. We encounter the Savior in the sick and suffering to whom we extend a healing hand, in the child who needs moral guidance, in a parent who needs an encouraging word, in a lonesome youth who needs a friend. And their presence changes our lives.

Emmanuel not only came at a specific moment in history; Emmanuel is among us at all time. Even more, we are to make Emmanuel present.