(Adults, you could begin by lighting a candle before reading the Gospel to your child.)
Throughout the Bible, we discover many names and titles for Jesus. We can find one for each day of Advent and still have more to find! Thinking about the different names and titles helps us go deeper into the mystery of who Jesus is, deeper into the mystery of God. In the Gospel for this fourth Sunday of Advent, when Joseph learns about God's plan, we hear two different names for the baby.
Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit.
Joseph does not understand how Mary can be having a baby. They are not even married yet. He wonders if she loves someone else.
an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.’
The first name we hear—Jesus—we know very well. We might not know that Jesus means something like "he who saves." The angel says that this baby comes to save people from their sins. Why do people need saving from their sins?
All this took place to fulfil what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet:
‘Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel’,
which means, ‘God is with us.’
The prophet Isaiah hears this name Emmanuel (also spelled Immanuel) long, long before Jesus was born. He hears about a child who would be called God-is-with-us.
But the angel tells Joseph that this child is conceived from the Holy Spirit.
This child is God-with-us!
This is brand new. Never before has God entered into time as a baby.
What does this tell us about how much God wants to be with us? This is something we can think about and enjoy during these next few days before Christmas. How MUCH God wants to be with us!
Once, a young girl thinking about the name, "Emmanuel" said,
"If Jesus is 'God-with-us,' then why do we sing 'O come, O come, Emmanuel'?"
If God is already with us, why do we sing, asking God to come?
A very good question.
Could it be that God is with us, but we are not with God?
What keeps us—what stops us—from being with God?
We remember that the angel says that Jesus—'he who saves'—will save people from their sins. Do our sins prevent us from being fully with God? Do we sing "come, Emmanuel" because we need to be set free from our sins? Can Jesus free us from the mess we make so that we can be with God-with-us?
We cannot get ourselves out of our mess, but Jesus can.
Jesus saves us, because he is Emmanuel.
How MUCH he wants to be with us!