Canon Roy Arnold
Now let me see; is it to be socks or handkerchiefs for Uncle Tom this Christmas, like last Christmas (and the one before). Obviously, biscuits and talcum powder for Granny. Christmas is a time for list-making isn’t it? A list of presents to buy; a list for shopping; when to get the turkey; and the running order for cooking the dinner (don’t forget to make the trifle). Even fitting in Church at Christmas. Yes I know – they have even started getting get religion into Christmas now, whatever next?
Actually (as we know) it’s the reason for this season; mixing in some pagan midwinter celebration with the joyous story of the Birth of Jesus – of which birth we heard in our Gospel for today. But did you hear in the Gospel that other title (from the prophet Isaiah), that other sort of name for Jesus?
The name Emmanuel. “Jesus our Emmanuel.”
It means GOD WITH US, or GOD IS WITH US. That’s a particular reason for saying “Happy Christmas”; that God (in Jesus, or the Spirit of Jesus) is with us. Not WAS with us, “long time ago in Bethlehem” – but God is with us NOW.
Which thought set me off making another Christmas list – a list of how Jesus IS with us now. First on the list is that we can hear – in the here and now – Jesus speaking to us. We have his recorded words, telling us what to do and how we are to behave. And then I suppose another obvious one is that we can actually talk to Jesus – and to God through Jesus – which we do whenever we say our prayers. Then he is us with us in this very service, the Holy Communion. When we actually receive him. Going up to the altar for Holy Communion, we are going up to meet Jesus – God with us.
All of these are sort of churchy things, but I believe we can experience Jesus in our everyday lives outside church. So Jesus can be with when we are sad, when someone has died, or when we (or someone else) is ill. And Jesus is certainly with us when we are happy and full of the Joys of Easter. He can be there – if we let him – when we are depressed, or lonely, or tempted to go down the wrong road.
And do remember this: he doesn’t drop down to us from heaven. He comes to us mainly through our loved ones, or friends, our neighbours, other people. Or in something we hear on the radio, or read in a book, or a sudden memory of some good thing long ago… or even in a sermon.
And here is a really important thought: that other people might just find Jesus (Jesus with us NOW – OUR EMMANUEL) in you or in me; in our friendly words or actions. Yes, yours or mine. A smile, or a kind word (but not always easy and be real about it).
Talking of being real about this business of GOD BEING WITH US, there do seem to be lots of Gods around. The men who murdered the soldier in Woolwich thought that God was with them. And history is full of people following the wrong God – two World Wars are examples where Christian nations fought with one another.
So that when we say that GOD IS WITH US, we must be as sure as we can be that it is Jesus we are truly following. It is Jesus who is our EMMANUEL; Jesus who is truly GOD WITH US. Maybe then – another item for our Christmas List – remember to welcome Jesus into our lives.
GOD WITH US through all the changing scenes of life, in trouble and in joy. JESUS OUR EMMANUEL – God’s Son as our friend and our brother.
This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.
But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”
All this took place to fulfil what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).
When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.