MESSAGE: 4th Sunday of ADVENT A – 18th December 2022
THEME: God with us
Two names of the child tells us about the nature of God:
Jesus, meaning “God saves”
Emmanuel, meaning “God is with us”
Where has God been present in your life this week?
The Gospel reading for this last Sunday before Christmas – the fourth Sunday of Advent – speaks of Christ as the one who comes to us as “God with us”.
This is more than just a promise of God’s presence. It’s an indication of God’s longing for intimacy with us.
God is not “up in heaven” watching us “from a distance”.
Rather, God is immersed in our flesh, our experience and our world.
The theological word for this is “incarnation” – that God takes on human flesh.
This means that everything that makes up the physical world – from our planet to our bodies – is important to God.
Spirit and matter are not separate, but are one, and God is to be found within our embodied lives.
There are two powerful messages that we can hear through this truth.
Firstly, we can rest in the knowledge that God truly is with us – not just in a once off moment in history, but in every moment and every situation.
Secondly, we can offer our bodies, our energy, our lives to God as God’s Temple – the place where God Spirit dwells.
And then, as we experience God’s abiding presence within us, we become “little incarnations” – people who “carry” God within our flesh and our lives.
This means that, as we seek to love and serve others as Jesus did, we also become little “Emmanuel’s” through whom others encounter God’s living presence.
When the writer of Matthew’s Gospel tried to explain the significance of Jesus’ birth, he turned to the prophet Isaiah.
When the kingdom of Judah was under threat, Isaiah gave King Ahaz a sign – and the angel in Matthew’s Gospel used this same sign about the birth of Jesus.
In Isaiah’s case, the sign was intended to show the King that he did not need to place his trust in human alliances, but that God would be with God’s people and would sustain and care for them.
In Joseph’s case, Jesus was the sign that revealed that God was with God’s people, and that the dream of God’s Reign was finally being fulfilled in the world.
Of all the signs God could have chosen to reveal God’s grace and presence, the birth of a child is, perhaps, one of the most unexpected.
But, from the outset God seeks to show that God’s Reign is completely different from human empires.
In God’s Reign, children are the teachers, and the greatest are the least. And the sign of God’s Reign is the sign of birth, of creativity, of new life.
Jesus is the sign that points to the presence of God’s Reign, God’s life, God’s creativity among us. What does this mean to you today?
Do: A sign is designed to point us to something that we might not see without the sign.
It’s a call for us to pay attention. In the same way, Jesus is a sign that calls us to pay attention to God’s presence and grace among us.
Today, make a conscious effort to be mindful of God’s presence in your life.
Pray: Teach me to pay attention, Jesus, and to be aware of God’s presence