Monthly Message from Fr. Timothy - December 2020
St. Matthew says that the birth of Jesus was the fulfilment of an ancient prophecy from Isaiah, "Look! The Virgin is with child and will give birth to a son whom they will call Emmanuel". (Matthew 1:23) St. Matthew interprets the name Emmanuel to mean "God-is-with-us". St. John Chrysostom asks why He wasn't named Emmanuel son of Joseph, or Emmanuel of Nazareth, or Emmanuel the Christ, instead of Jesus. He says the event itself and its outcome will cause people to recognize that Jesus is the Emmanuel, God-with-us.
Admittedly, Chrysostom observes, God has always been with us, but never before has He been so obviously among us. It's a beautiful observation, and we should keep it in mind as we prepare to celebrate Christmas. Realizing that God lives among us, as one of us, like us, makes Christmas more than the image of an innocent baby lying in a manger surrounded by animals, angels, peasants, and kings. The story and the picture make us realize that God decided to live with us.
The Gospel story of Jesus places a strong emphasis on the Kingdom of God. John the Baptist said it was coming, Jesus said it was already here. Jesus had much to say about this Kingdom and its presence. It's the whole context of His teaching and His miracles. According to the Gospels, the Kingdom is a new reign of godliness brought about by divine intervention and embodied in the life of Jesus. The Kingdom doesn't belong to any particular place or any human realm, or any historical period or earthly political or religious system – although it includes all of these. It doesn't belong to human beings to control or manipulate, although we share intimately in its existence, and we are invited to promote its growth and development.
The birth of Jesus and the Kingdom He proclaims is about a transformation: a new world characterized by the presence of a God able to create relationships based on justice, love, compassion, and peace. Politics and religion cannot achieve this. The birth of Jesus has turned our world upside down. God declares the powerless and the marginalized blessed. He affirms His preferential option for the poor. With the birth of Jesus, God has immersed Himself in human history.
Our celebration of Christmas in this year of COVID will be a new and different experience for us all. Despite the tremendous social and political flux, we now live in, the real challenge of Christmas remains the same.
Christ’s birth challenges us to accept full responsibility for the transformation from old to new, initiated in Jesus, and commit ourselves to the unfolding of a Kingdom marked by the correct relationships of justice, compassion, love, and peace. It's in this Kingdom, which is both here now and coming that we find the real meaning of the name Emmanuel. If we take our role in this transformation seriously, then we can genuinely Glorify Him.
Christ Is Born! Blessings at Christmas,
“The body through which God gives birth is not some type of divine endowment, unique to the divine Spirit; no, it is the body of creation itself. Without the embodiment of creation, God’s creativity is jeopardized. It is through the embodied nature of His creation that we encounter and engage the living presence of God”.
Commenting on the mystery and reality of God among us in his book ‘Evolutionary Faith’
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