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Emmanuel, God- with- us even in rough twists of our life
Here we are, the last week of Advent and soon we shall be celebrating Christmas. How prepared are we? Whatever the case it’s never too late. Every moment of our life it’s grace period that God gives us to open our hearts to his grace. The messiah we are awaiting is Emmanuel –God always with us no matter where we are in our preparations. We light the 4th candle as an expression of our trust and hope in God.
Bible Readings Isaiah 7: 10-16 Romains 1: 1-7 Mathieu 1: 18-24
Where am I?
Close to the feast of Christmas it’s helpful to check: where am I? What’s the prevailing sentiment in my heart? Is it confidence? Peace? Anxiety? Discouragement? In the readings we see two different attitudes between Ahaz and Joseph. Yet in either case God, Emmanuel, is present.
I can’t count on him, I try something else
In the First Reading, we are in the kingdom of Judah. King Ahaz despairs because he’s threatened by the king of the Northern kingdom in Samaria and by the king of Syria in Damas. The two kings want to dethrone Ahaz and put someone who will align with them to fight the Assyrians. Indeed, Ahaz seems to hit a bottom rock and his life blocked, so it appears. But then Isaiah advises him to ask for a sign of assurance from God to which Ahaz responds: “I will not ask, and I will not put the Lord to the test.” The response sounds pious, yet, behind it hides a crisis of trust.
Ahaz can no longer count on God for solution, he wants to try something else that he deems quick and effective. To assure himself of protection, he prefers to befriend the powerful, pagan king of the Assyrians. Such protection at any price will however see the people of Judah dance to pagan tunes, even abandoning their identity and dignity as God’s chosen people. But then something interesting happens.
He’s Emmanuel even when you ignore him
When Ahaz reclines to ask for a sign, God himself takes the initiative and gives him one: “Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Emmanuel.” In this promise God renews his continued presence among his people. He’s on their side to help them through dark moments.
Facing the little Ahaz in me
Am I different from Ahaz? How much do I count on God when the going gets tough in my life? Of course, I count on him as long as plan A works. Otherwise, my plan B is on standby and I’m ever ready to activate it when God is slow to act. In such moments, my mind already made up and in a hurry to save myself, I hardly listen to anyone.
Yet, even in those moments I prove to be stubborn God is there because he’s Emmanuel. If I can re-read my life attentively I will probably discover the signs he discreetly placed along the route of my life. I will realise that my life isn’t just a series of threats from my enemies; there are also consoling promises that the Lord renews in my life -there are promises that assures and give hope. I need to be awake in order to rejoice in this faithful presence of God on my side.
Contrary to despair and doubt in the First Reading, the Gospel gives us a story of hope and trust.
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Joseph had made up his mind, but he changed to obey
The gospel tells us, in spirit of faith, about the events surrounding the birth of Jesus. In a way Joseph, like Ahaz, finds himself in what we would call a blockage. He discovers that his fiancée is pregnant, not from him. His plans seem to be cast on to the ground. And even though Joseph tries to handle the whole affair with respect, nevertheless, he’s made up his mind –that’s the end with Mary. But then, a little sign turns his decision upside down.
Ahaz had Isaiah come to him; Joseph has angel that appears to him in the dream. It’s good to remember though that here we are dealing with a situation that’s not as clear as black and white. Yet, even in that dark moment Joseph discerns the presence of God who assures him. He obeys and takes Mary as his wife.
That’s why we speak of Joseph as righteous or just man. He’s just not because he belonged to some commission for justice and peace; but because he responded “amen” to God. He believed what’s said to him. It’s only a person who trusts can sincerely say “amen”. Isn’t it a pity that we often reduce this act of faith to a simple religious slogan! “Amen” means holding on firmly, trusting till the end even in moments of doubt or distress. That’s what Joseph did. He aligned himself to God’s will. He gave God his due by letting Him be master of his life. In Joseph and Mary we have an example of the profound meaning of Amen.
Times of blockage in my life
We have seen the difference between Ahaz and Joseph. Certainly, we’d like to be like Joseph. Yes, by reaching this 4th Sunday of Advent it means we too have been watching in faith. Nevertheless, even with our good will, there are situations in life that may have just overpowered us, and despite ourselves, we got discouraged, we doubted and we couldn’t just find it in us to say “amen” to God. We resorted to our own human alternatives. But God never leaves us. That’s why even at the end of Advent, no matter how unprepared we may feel today, he still comes to assure us. We still have chance.
The messiah we await is Jesus, he’s Emmanuel
The one we are awaiting is God who’s not only up there in heaven, on earth and everywhere –as we learnt in catechism. He is Jesus, God-man who saves; he is Emmanuel –God who pitches his tent alongside ours and he comes to share our life in order to help us up. And so whatever situation we may encounter; no matter how dark and how lonely we may feel –he assures us by his saving presence.
O come Emmanuel…
Hence, in these last days of Advent, pray for the grace that we may be more trusting, and thus, join Joseph and Mary in saying, sincerely, “amen” to God.
Indeed, o come Emmanuel! Ransom each one of us from his lonely exile where he mourns. Let us feel your soothing presence in our lives.
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