O Immanuel

Every one of the canonical Gospels insists on starting its story with the identification of Jesus as divine.  It is Matthew, by linking Isaiah with the child conceived through the Holy Spirit, who uses the word Immanuel of him.  ('imm'=with; 'anu'=us; 'el'=God)  As Matthew draws the right conclusion about Jesus from the angel of the Lord's words to him, so Luke points to the logic of Gabriel's sentence to Mary: the Spirit will come upon you and the Power of the most High will overshadow you; therefore, what will be born of you will be holy and called Son of God.  Mark offers no immediate proof for his opening line which speaks of Jesus, Messiah and Son of God; but there is no doubt about his meaning, nor about the understanding of the divine Jesus held by his audience.  John has the most powerful presentation about Jesus as divine.  Having identified the Word with God (the Word was God - not as some manuscripts had it, 'divine'), John gives the name of Jesus to that Word once it becomes flesh.  Indeed, he soon drops the identity of Jesus as the Word, but only to replace it with the term 'Son', a term used then throughout the Gospel and understood as the Word-made-flesh.  The Gospels are clear about this divinity of Jesus, however difficult it is for them to explain what they know to be true. 

What is interesting is the manifestation of divinity that is Jesus.  In advance of his story, one might think one has a pretty good idea of what a divine person would be.  No doubt, Jesus fulfills some of that definition; the New Testament says that the pagans knew the true God.  But no one at all expected that in this Nazarean would exist a divine love such as Jesus showed to all.  Power, he has it and people thought of it as divine.  But were they ready for the love of God for us?  Could they ever say that what Jesus did for us was expected?  Jesus is no 'ho hum; I know who he is'.  The Advent-Christmas liturgy tells us that the best we can do for our own good at Christmas is reflection upon what has happened to us, with thanksgiving and praise.  We will never fully appreciate the love of the Christ child, the divine child, but we must try, for it is what will set us afire and happy.  All the O-antphons call us to reflection, to go contrary to the business of the season and our world, but none demands so much silence and peaceful gazing upon the crib as does this birth of Jesus, Immanuel.

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Barbara Green, O.P.

 

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