In today’s First Reading we hear the prophecy about a son to be born, who is to be named Emmanuel. In the Gospel we learn that Emmanuel means “God is with us.” The first Emmanuel was probably Hezekiah, the son of King Ahaz to whom the prophecy was originally given. His birth was a sign that God had not abandoned his people and that the royal line of David was not to die out.
However this prophecy is given a new fulfillment as it is repeated by the angel of the Lord to Joseph in today’s Gospel, a passage which is known as the “Annunciation to Joseph.” Joseph is addressed as “son of David.” Although the ruling power of the house of David had collapsed with the beginning of the Babylonian Captivity in 587 BC, and Judea was now no more than a province of the Roman Empire, many Jews believed that God’s promise to King David (2 Samuel 7:16) was still good and the house of David would be restored to power: “Your house and your kingdom are firm forever before me; your throne shall be firmly established forever.” As Mary’s husband, Joseph will give her son legal membership in the house of David.
Jesus’ royal lineage is affirmed again in the “Annunciation to Mary” in Luke 1:31-33: “Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” Saint Paul, in today’s Second Reading, speaks of his call to proclaim “the gospel about [God’s] Son, descended from David according to the flesh, but established as Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness through resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord.”
So whose birth are we preparing to celebrate? Jesus really is Emmanuel, “God with us,” since he is God the Son become man. He was born into the royal house of David, but is King of the Universe, not simply of a political or geographical kingdom. We, by virtue of baptism, have become citizens of his kingdom. He is both Christ and Lord. Today’s Responsorial Psalm refrain is fitting for the end of the Advent season, preparing us to celebrate his birth: “Let the Lord enter; he is king of glory.”
The sacrament of penance is an important part of our Advent preparation for a worthy celebration of Christmas. Remember to take time to celebrate this sacrament. The priests of the Chippewa Falls Deanery will be traveling to the various parishes for penance services this week. Ours will be at St. Charles on Monday, December 19, at 7:00 PM. Others will be at Holy Ghost this Sunday, December 18, at 3:00 PM; and at Notre Dame on Tuesday, December 20, at 7:00 PM. You are welcome to go wherever it fits your schedule. In addition Father Richmond and I will hear confessions on Saturday morning, December 24, from 10:30 AM until noon. One of us will be at each church.
Pray the rosary this week for people who have abandoned the practice of the faith: that they may respond to God’s grace, come to the sacrament of penance and return to the regular celebration of the Eucharist. Pray for all who are traveling this Christmas, and for people who are homeless or lacking sufficient shelter from winter’s cold.
May God bless his people with peace.