4th Sunday of Advent - God Be with us!

Emmanuel isn’t just a title we Christians bestow on Jesus. It expresses a basic act of trust that God is present and will always be with us. God is not a distant observer, or a cheerleader who roots for us from afar. The Gospel shows us that once again God is keeping God’s word: a child is given to us to assure us that God is doing what the angel told Joseph: “fulfilling” what had been spoken through the prophets.

Jesus is the assurance - not only in the past but even now - that God travels with us throughout our entire lives, even when our faith is challenged, our hope broken, and when our joy seems to dissolve. He is our Emmanuel. And, once again, he is the gift bringing light into our darkness and hope to our struggles. Love has pierced the chill of our world and warmed us with an embrace that will not let go of us – Emmanuel, “God is with us.”

When we hear the name “Emmanuel” we might presume it is just one more ancient title for God, now applied to Jesus. But it’s more than a title - it signifies a promise fulfilled. It can serve us as a brief, to-the-point prayer in time of need.

We approach the Christmas season with vivid, violent reminders of the evils caused in our society by selfishness, ruthless ambition, twisted hatred and the craze for power at every level. This ugly drama is played out all over our world: in our homes and families, especially so in our politics, in the bitterness and seeming irreconcilable differences among peoples, in the mistrust found among nations and even in the lack of trust in church leadership.

The human family needs, as never before, to hear the message of Advent, to free us from our fears and to give us direction. But more than that, we need to recognize and respond to the constant invitation of Jesus, God-with-us, to join Him in a new world community of shared love, peace and justice.

When we feel overwhelmed and distressed, we invoke the name that reminds us of God’s presence with us in whatever we are going through. Emmanuel then, isn’t simply a title, but a prayer we pray with confidence: “God Be with us!”

Today’s Gospel reassures us all that, even in situations of conflict and confusion, God is faithful. Despite all our uncertainties and difficulties God is born again into our lives, builds us up and stays with us. For our God is named Emmanuel -- truly God is with us.

He stands with all human beings who yearn for a radical change of heart and life, who crave liberation from the power of evil, who seek release from all forms of oppression - religious, political, social and economic. He stands as the only One who can take away our fear and make clear our vision.

It is Jesus who lives the message, challenging political and religious systems, embracing a radical poverty of spirit, and reaching out with compassion and liberation for all the oppressed.

It is He who stirs the profound longings in all of our hearts for true freedom, justice and peace - for ourselves, and for all of our brothers and sisters across the world. It is He who reinforces our Hope. He invites us to commit ourselves more fully to Gospel values. He begs us not to trivialize our resolve by being satisfied with token and occasional gestures of Christianity, and He invites us to rededicate ourselves to follow His example more faithfully, and to strive even more forcefully to eliminate the hoarding, climbing and controlling in our own lives and in the world at large.

So, let us continue this mission each day of our lives; let's be light in darkness, peacemakers and life-givers, in every aspect of our lives. Only then can the promise of Advent echo through our voices: “Emmanuel, God-Is-With-Us!”