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.”
If you would like to celebrate the last Mass of Advent, come to St. Charles on Tuesday morning, December 24, for the 8:30 Mass. Later that morning Father Hokamp and I will hear confessions from 10:30 until noon: Father Hokamp at St. Charles and I at St. Peter.
Wednesday is Christmas. With the angels the Church proclaims the hymn, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to people of good will.” I find the hymns of the Christmas season to be among the most theologically profound of the entire year. They are so full of scriptural references and images. Their melodies, too, evoke the deepest emotions. Enjoy the music of this season and pay attention to the words! They are a catechism on the mystery of the incarnation and of our salvation.
Enjoy these holy holidays as you gather with family and friends. Pray for the safety of all who are traveling during these days and remember those who are far from home, especially those serving overseas. Thanks for your generosity to the poor of our community and beyond through your donations to local food pantries and to Casa Hogar.
May God bless us all this Christmas and always.