By: Rev. Fr. AMEH Sylvanus

Readings: Isaiah 7:10-14; Psalm 24; Romans 1:1-7; Matthew 1:18-24

Theme: Immanuel: God is with us

One of the major thrusts of Saint Matthew’s gospel account is to show to his Jewish audience that God is always faithful to his promises, that God is a promise keeper. And a very major theme for Saint Matthew is that Jesus is the fulfillment of the Messianic prophecies in the prophetic corpus of writings. This is why in several instances, especially around the annunciation, birth and infancy narratives of Saint Matthew, we hear him repeatedly saying, “And this was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet…” We also see this playing out in today’s liturgy of the Word.

In the first reading, the prophet Isaiah was speaking to king Ahaz of Judah who was under attack by two kings, Rezin of Aram and Pekah of Israel (Isa 7:1-2). Ahaz was terrified by the thought of being conquered, and God sent him the prophet Isaiah to bring him words of encouragement and of comfort. God said to Ahaz through Isaiah, “Take heed, be quiet, do not fear, and do not let your heart be faint…” (Isa 7:4). However, despite these words from the prophet, Ahaz was still not convinced, hence, he remained in his fear. It was to further convince him that God was with him and he need not fear that he was asked to demand a sign as proof of God’s abiding presence, and the subsequent promise of the Emmanuel, as we heard it in today’s first reading.

The prophetic promise of the Immanuel (Isa 7:14) was a promise to be kept for all eternity, not only to Ahaz and the people of his day. God re-echoed that promise when the birth of Jesus was announced by the angel Gabriel and it was ultimately fulfilled at the birth of Jesus. In several other instances in scriptures, we also hear God reassuring his people and us that his presence with us never fails. Advent points us to Christmas, and at Christmas, we celebrate Immanuel, God-with-Us (Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:23). Christmas is a reminder of the fact that God is always with his people, that God never forgets us (Isaiah 49:14-16). Jesus also gives us this assurance when he said he is with us “even to the close of the age” (Matthew 28:20), and even when he was to return back to the Father in heaven, he promised not to leave his disciples and us as orphans, but to send the Holy Spirit to be with us (Jn 14:18, 24).

Child of God, as you celebrate Christmas then, have it in mind that you are celebrating God’s presence with you. Irrespective of your condition in life, whether you are rich or poor, God is with you; in sickness or in good health, God is with you; whether you are a childless couple or you have children, God is with you; if you are married or you are still searching for a life partner, God is with you. Is your business thriving or is it struggling, God is with you in it; are you of a buoyant, strong faith or are you struggling very hard to stay on the path of righteousness, God is also with you; even when evil people band together against us, the word of God says we should not fear, their plans will not stand, for God is with us (Isa 8:10). Dear friends, at all times, in all circumstances, God is and always wants to be with us. Let us then be encouraged, let us take heart, let us not fear, for Immanuel is not just a name, Immanuel is the nature of our God, the God who is always with us.

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