Whenever our life is altered by the presence of an important person, a significant event, or something of considerable value, every aspect of our day is also affected. Although I am not young anymore, I still remember how, when I was just six or seven, a small statue of our Lady of Fatima was going around from one family to the next in my little hamlet of Cendon. I still recall how that statue of the Blessed Mother changed the evening that she stayed at our home, the whole night and the following day, until she was taken in procession to the next house. Nobody got angry; nobody raised his/her voice; we all became more considerate of each other, but also self-conscious as we were afraid of possible slipups. My brother and I behaved like two little, obedient, respectful, cooperative angels. I am sure that Mom would have liked the statue to stay at our house much longer than those 24 hours!
Matthew 1:23 “Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means “God is with us.”
Speaking of significant presences that alter our lives, this one tops them all: God is with us, God is Emmanuel.
We can be a little or a lot nervous for as long as someone of importance stays at our house. We can be all excited the first few days when a new car sits in our driveway. We have trouble sleeping if we know that Santa, this time, might leave that very special gift under the tree.
Today, let us pause to consider how we should react to the most astonishing news ever: that God is with us; that He is Emmanuel.
I am going to share with you a few ways in which our life should be altered by this astonishing fact.
Then, in the car on the way home, at home, whenever we have some time to be by ourselves, we should single out which areas of our heart and life must change in the awareness of having God so close to us; of His being in our hearts.
Let Mary and Joseph inspire us. For nine months, Mary must have touched her womb from time to time, and felt God literally, physically inside her. But she must have felt him in her heart even before; even soon after she was troubled by the greeting of the archangel Gabriel; even when, by agreeing to his proposal, she knew that she could have been stoned to death for adultery; even when she had to find a way to let Joseph know about the Baby growing in her womb.
And she, most definitely, felt God’s presence in her and all around throughout her life, even when they lost Jesus in the temple; even when Joseph died; when Jesus left her to start his public ministry; especially at the foot of his cross when her heart was broken by unbearable grief.
The same was true of Joseph as he was bewildered by what was happening to his betrothed; as he swallowed his pride and took Mary as his wife; as he fled to Egypt with her and the divine Infant; as he kept searching for him, in Jerusalem, with much anguish for three days among relatives and acquaintances; as he settled in Nazareth and lived in quiet obscurity until his death.
I am convinced that, in imitation of Mary and Joseph, if we were to take this simple truth: that God is Emmanuel, as the guiding force of our life, there would be a remarkable, tangible improvement.
We would be instinctively placing ourselves in a docile, receptive, listening mode because we would hang on God’s every Word.
We would be cautious, prudent and inclined to make inspired choices of loving service of others.
We would feel and act in a more serene way, with confidence and genuine trust precisely because of the One that surrounds us, sustains us, and holds us in his hands.
We would be generally untroubled even whenever facing serious issues and potentially crippling hardships, because we would be facing them from a stance of inner peace and basking in God’s love.
We would be filled with unfamiliar courage and, eventually, dare to consider offering ourselves up for the good of others just the way Jesus did for us on the cross.
We would be ready to endure the grinding routine of daily life; we would persevere amid daunting challenges; we would hold out hope when most people would have lost heart already.
This list of how things would dramatically change if we live out the astonishing fact of God being Emmanuel would accurately represent what He has planned for each one of us precisely at this juncture of our lives.
It is up to us now, on the way home, at home, in the immediate future, to ask ourselves how much of this divine presence we are willing to take in, and allow transforming us.
In the meantime, it would serve us all very well if we decide to entreat the Lord in earnest so that we may all choose, without delay, to capitalize on His closeness and on the warmth of His love.