In the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost.
When the angel appeared to Joseph he reminded him of the ancient prophecy which promised that a time would come when God would be among His people once again, as He had been at the beginning, inseparable from them. Then they would shout the word “Emmanuel”, which in Hebrew means “God with us”. And this prophecy has been fulfilled in Christ; now God is in our midst.
Once upon a time the people of Israel directed their whole soul, their whole earthly longing, their whole hope of heaven toward that mysterious distance, the abode of the unknowable God. The religions of the ancient world were all concentrated on finding by some means or other, by sacrificial rites, by an upright life, by prayer, some link, some contact with this God, so incomprehensible, so terribly distant in His holiness and His unknowableness. And this God, on that mysterious Christmas night, became man; He entered our created world clothed in human flesh through the ever-Virgin Mary. Now we no longer try to find God in unfamiliar heavenly heights, we no longer try to bring Him down to us, to attract His attention, mercy, compassion, pity, kindness, for we know that God is with us, that He is in our midst, that the long search is ended, that He Himself has come. And now when we pray in church, at home, in our secret hearts, God is with us.
Today we remember Christ’s ancestors by blood, and our own church is filled with their presence. The Saviour Christ is with us, the Mother of God who gave Him His human body and His human soul, and an innumerable crowd of His forebears. We have read a long list of their names; among them some dazzle us by their righteousness, holiness, purity, but there are others who only by the miracle of God’s love could be included in the genealogy of the Son of God become the son of man, sinners whom the Old Testament shows us as such without making excuses for them. But they all had one quality in common: God-directedness: with every fibre of their souls, with all the strength of longing, with all their earthly hunger they struggled towards the One who is life and truth and righteousness and light, and the meaning of everything. And because they were orientated towards God in this way, because they fought against sin which often overpowered and conquered them, they were worthy of God. Is not this wonderful? Is it not wonderful that God responds not to our holiness nor to our heroic efforts nor to our prayers, but to the sometimes desperate cry of our souls: “Lord, I cannot live without You: I am tormented by my mortal nature, I am rent by my passions, death rules in me, I am drawn down to the earth — yet there is in me a life, a hunger which can be satisfied only by you.”
It is easy to be that kind of person if we only look into our own depths; if only we do not try to satisfy the hunger that is in us with earthly cops, our thirst with the deceptive intoxication of earthly things, nor try to relieve the longing with entertainment, if only we would consent to be those hungry ones whom God will fill, those seekers who will find, those loving ones who will be beloved, those full of despair to whom, beyond all expectation, the Lord Himself will come. He is in our midst; we need not seek Him afar, He is here; around us are all those who were His kinsfolk who say to us: Look at us, we were like you, some of us were better, but most were even worse than you, and God has related Himself to us because without Him we could not live.
Let us become truthful; let us not deceive and blind ourselves; then we shall meet the living God and He, Emmanuel, will come to us with His victorious name JESUS, which means ‘God Conquers’; it conquers us, conquers evil, sin, death, everything, and we discover it as everlasting joy, as our own life, as our victory, as the Kingdom of eternal love and bliss. Amen.
Published : Newsletter N. 94, January 1978