O God, speak peace to your people and shine the light of your love on the hearts of those who truly turn to you. Amen
Almost from the very beginning of time mankind has existed in a world of strife and fighting. Fear and hatred have ruled. Adam and Eve fell. Cain…kills his brother out of jealousy in the first few pages of human history. Mankind’s relationship with his maker is not immune from this strife. Adam and Eve hid from God; fearing God is now at odds with them, they hid from him-pushing him away.
The relationship marred, they no longer walked with God in the cool of the garden, but at the very beginning God planted seeds of hope and redemption. Genesis chapter 3 says the offspring of Eve will crush the head of the serpent. God wants mankind to be at peace; both with him and with each other, so… God became Immanuel.
He became God with us. God down in the dirt and mire. God in the fear and strife. As Johnny Cash would say, “God in the mud and the blood and the beer.” God did this not only to restore mankind to each other and himself, but also be with us in our pain and strife.
I remember one night after my mother was killed and I had returned home from the hospital, I went out and sat on the porch and cried. My dad came out, sat down beside me, put his arm around me and we cried together. Neither of us said anything… there were no words to be said… they had all been said. After a while, dad and I got up and gave each other a hug and we went back into the house. That was the thing…more than anything else… that help me to be able to go on with life after mom’s death…Dad with me. Uncomplicated. Just a relationship of love sharing pain together. That’s want God has done for us.
Listen again to today’s Gospel reading…
“Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).” Matthew 1:18-25
God with us. This is no small thing. God come down to us. God himself, not a messenger, took on flesh to be with us. To live with us in our suffering and pain. To join with himself our strife. To so consume our suffering and pain that it killed him!
He did this to bring us peace. Peace with each other. Peace with him. God with us brings us back to the relationship mankind had with him in the beginning…walking with him in the cool of the Garden. God has made peace, real peace, lasting peace. This is what the birth of the Emmanuel means…PEACE.
This is what we wait for this Advent. This is what we wait to see fully actualized and this is the message Christ has called us to share with all those around us: That God so loved the world that he became Emmanuel, to join in our pain and to bring peace to all mankind.