December 23 - the Gospel

Matthew’s first line, in today’s Gospel, speaks of ’how the birth of Jesus Christ came about’.  His story is a gathering of strong traditions already existing in the Christian world of the Mediterranean Basic; St. Paul’s letters are good examples of this already existing tradition.  Matthew wants to point out these things.  First, as his first line indicates, we are to consider Jesus CHRIST.  Matthew is to tell of the conception of the CHRIST, that person who is the longed-for completion of all our hopes, of all God’s loving promises.  Second, this child must be called JESUS, which means ’God saves through the person of this name’.  Not only then is this child to grow into the person who will fulfill our deepest longings and desires (put in us by God), but he will save us from the things from which we cannot save ourselves.  Third, this child-to-be should be recognized as Immanuel, God-with-us (Imm=with; anu=us;el=God).  While both savior and Messiah, he is most fully known to be divine; whatever else he is, he is divine.  Finally, this Divinity is with us, no longer simply looking down on us, but one of us.  Woe to him, we might say, that he must go through human grief, ultimately to die.  But He wants to be with us.  This underlines the fact that the whole story Matthew tells originates with the choice God made out of love - He will do all to love us.  Matthew’s short picture here is not about morality; it is about revelation.  It is the Church’s best way to prepare us for Christmas: to know, as thoroughly as we can, just whose birth we celebrate so joyously, so adoringly, so thankfully.                     John Kilgallen, SJ

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