“...[t]hey shall call him Emmanuel, which means “God is with us”.
Matthew 1:23 (NRSV)
“O Come, O Come Emmanuel”...
“Rejoice, Rejoice, Emmanuel Shall Come to You, O Israel!”
The New Century Hymnal, #116
One of my favorite hymns growing up in a Lutheran church on Long Island was O Come, O Come Emmanuel, not because of the words but because of the haunting melody. It was only recently that I learned what Emmanuel means. Now that hymn is one of my favorites because we are actually singing, “O Come, O Come God with Us”.
It is important to remember, as Martha Dale reminded us, that Jesus, Emmanuel, God is with us, was born in Bethlehem in harsh circumstances. Then he grew up in Nazareth where Joseph, the head of the household, was a carpenter. But again, Joseph was not a carpenter in the way we might imagine. Rather, it is very likely that Joseph, like many others in Nazareth in those days, had lost his land, and thus took whatever odd jobs he could find. Nazareth was a town so marginalized that one of Jesus' future disciples asked whether any thing good could possibly come from there.
The answer to that question is that indeed something good did come from Nazareth, Jesus, Emmanuel, God is with us. The late Biblical scholar Marcus Borg said, “Jesus is what God looks like in a man”. What Borg meant is that Jesus' life of healing the sick, of feeding the hungry, of challenging the oppressor, and of reaching out to the marginalized and the outcasts revealed the very character and heart of God. And Jim Wallis of the Sojourners says that the Christ child reminds us of “imago dei”, which is the created image of God in each of us.
This is why the coming of Jesus, Emmanuel, God is with us is such good news. Rejoice, rejoice, indeed.