“All this took place to fulfil what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: ‘Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel’ (which means, God with us).” (Matthew 1:22-23)
Last Sunday, our readings literally invited us to rejoice regardless of whatever we may be going through. When John the Baptist sent his disciples to Jesus, Jesus counted his blessings; the blind can see again, the lame walk, the dead are raised to life and the poor receive the Good News. The best thing to do in moments of fear and worry is to count our blessings and reassure ourselves again that God still cares, that He never sleeps.
Taking up from there, our readings today introduce us to the person of Jesus Christ as Emmanuel which means God with us. When we celebrate Christmas, we celebrate the fact that God is not far from us. God is here with us, God is always here for us no matter what we may be going through. Other lessons contained in our readings include:
1. Trust in God, not in Military Might.
In today’s first reading, God speaking through the prophet Isaiah challenges King Ahaz to ask for a sign. At this point in history, Ahaz who was king of Judah heard that the kings of Syria and Israel had joined forces to form a coalition army and were coming to wage war against him. When the news of this war came to Ahaz, “his heart and that of his people shook as the trees of the forest shake before the wind.” (Isaiah 7:2). Ahaz was completely terrified because the only thing he could trust was his military strength.
Ahaz did not realize he had something far greater and more superior than all the weapons of the world put together. Ahaz and his people were taken by fear because they did not know that they had God with them. Isaiah’s prophecy served a great purpose; to make Ahaz conscious of the name Emmanuel – God in the midst of His People. Sing: Emmanuel…. Emmanuel…. Your name is Lord… Emmanuel
Are you scared? Are you troubled? Who has threatened you? Have you heard something in the news that makes your heart shake like the trees of the forest? What is it that troubles you? There is one message for you today. It is Emmanuel; the God you serve is not far away, He is with you. He sees He knows, He understands and He has every power, every wisdom, everything needed to handle the situation. When you feel scared, call on God with faith and trust and he will not fail you. Sing: Who can battle with the Lord?…. Who can battle with the Lord…., who can battle with the lord…., I say nobody. I say nobody, I say no-body.
2. The Heroic Role of Joseph’s Faith.
Our Gospel passage today contains the encounter between Joseph and the Angel. Like the Joseph of the Old Testament, this Joseph was also a great dreamer. And just as Joseph welcomed his family to Egypt to save them from the famine, this Joseph would have to flee at night with Mary and the baby Jesus to Egypt to save him from the mass slaughter of Herod the Great. Again as Joseph was industrious and chaste in the house of Potiphar so was this Joseph industrious (being a carpenter) and chaste.
Even though Joseph had already made up his mind to quietly dissolve the proposed marriage to Mary, he found the faith to obey the voice of the Angel taking it as a message from God. By obeying the Angel, Joseph showed that he believed in the possibility of God taking flesh in the womb of a person. Joseph believed that this child is God in the midst of men and he never suspected Mary of any wrongdoing.
We Christians of nowadays cast and bind (rejecting by force) the contents of our dreams that are not in line with what we want. God was making a very huge demand on Joseph; asking him to go against his plans. Joseph could have as well woken up from sleep to cast and bind the Angel, but he accepted that God’s plan was superior to his. Just as Mary would say “Behold I am the handmaid of the Lord, let what you have said be done to me”. Joseph, by this action, also displayed the same humility of Mary by letting go of his personal plans to allow God’s will prevail. This is basically our calling as Christians, to let go and let God.
3. Every Child Needs a Father.
The role of Joseph in the life of Jesus proves that every child needs a father; one who is there to provide, protect and train. Today is another day to say a big thank you to our Fathers; the men who were there for us from cradle, the men who bore the harsh heat of the sun and worked all day just to put food on our tables, the men who were our first teachers in the faith, the men who disciplined us when we went astray, the men who moulded us to be who we are today.
Fathers are not necessarily biological. Fathers are just a blessed species. True fathers are even very rare today. Are you a Father? What kind of Father are you?
Let us pray: Lord Jesus, you are Emmanuel, may I never lose sight of your presence in my life. Amen. Bible Study: Isaiah 7:10-14. Romans 1:1-7 and Matthew 1:18-24).