Immanuel: God Among Us

Advent Retreat Reflection
By Fr. Chinnappan Pelavendran

Emmanuel means God is with us. From the beginning even today God is with His people through His presence, He Strengthens us, comforts us, guides us, cares for us, and loves us. First, God is with us always. Secondly, he is coming every day, every hour to those who believe in him and those who do not believe in him. Third, he will come again in his glorified body, the same Jesus who was here two thousand years ago. He will be coming to judge the living and the dead.

In the beginning, God created Adam and Eve in His Image and likeness, which means God lives with everyone. God lives in you, God lives in me and God lives in each and every human being in the world. God was with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. He wanted to care for them and be with them. He created us with love because he wanted to be with us.

When Abram was 75 years old, God told him to move out of his country and to go land that God would lead him to. He told Abram:

I will make of you a great nation,
And I will bless you;
I will make your name great
so that you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you
And curse those who curse you.
All the communities of the earth
Shall find blessing in you.” (Genesis 12:2–3)

Abram had a strong faith in God. He knew that God would always be with him. He gathered his family together and they left his country just as the lord told him. Abram was 75 years old when he left the country, Abram trusted God to lead him. He didn’t know where they were going, so a map or GPS would not have helped. Everything was unknown. God was with Abram and led him to the land of Canaan. God was with him in a strange land among strangers.

God heard the cries of His people. They were slaves of the Pharaoh of Egypt. They were being treated with much cruelty. They called out to God to save them. God appeared to Moses from a burning bush and called him, “Moses! Moses!” He answered, “Here I am.” And God said to him, “I have witnessed the affliction of my people in Egypt and have heard their cry of complaint against their slave drivers, so I know well what they are suffering. I have come down to rescue them and lead them out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey.” (Exodus 3:7–8)

The suffering they endured is unimaginable to us. The Israelites worked long hard days, were frequently beaten and all male children were killed at birth. Through all their suffering the lord was always with them.

Moses was a shepherd, a common man, and not eloquent in speech. He led his people out of Egypt. They were in the desert for forty years and Moses was able to take care of all their needs (food, and shelter, Clothing and water) because God was with him.

Judith was a widow and a member of the Israelites. God was with her. They knew that they were going to be attacked by the Assyrian army led by a chief general, Holofernes. He had 120,000 soldiers and also 12,000 archers on Horseback. He took provisions to provide for his entire army. Judith’s people found safety on top of a mountain. The army camped at the base of the mountain cutting of the water supply for the Israelites that was located there. Judith came down from the mountain to meet with the captain of the enemy. She had prayed to God to help her save her people. God enabled her to take the head of Holofernes back to her people. God was with Judith.

In the New Testament, God continued to be with his people. A good example is the Blessed Mother. She was conceived without original sin because she was chosen by God. She was a single young girl when the Angel came to her and said, “Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Highest, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and He will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom, there will be no end.” (Luke 1:31-33) And Mary said yes to God. Mary was well aware of the possible difficulties she could encounter, pregnant and single. If she were found out, she could be stoned to death. It would cause embarrassment to her and her entire community.

During the birth of Jesus, there was no one to deliver her baby. They did not have a place to stay. They finally found a barn and when Jesus was born he was placed in a manger.

St. Joseph was a just man and the earthly father of Jesus. When Jesus was born, King Herod issued a command to kill all the male children under the age of two. He was afraid that Jesus was an earthly king and would overthrow him. “Angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said Rise and take the child and his Mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you. Herod is going to search for the child to destroy him.” (Matthew 2:13) In their life with Jesus, God was with them.

Jesus was very good friends with Martha, Mary and Lazarus and frequently stayed at their home. When Lazarus was sick, Mary and Martha sent word to Jesus. “When Jesus heard this He said, this illness is not to end in death, but is for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” (John 11:4) Jesus came after the death of Lazarus. Martha was disappointed and told Jesus that Lazarus would not have died if Jesus had been there. Jesus went to the tomb of Lazarus and prayed, “Father, I thank you for hearing me. I know that you always hear me; but because of the crowd here I have said this, that they may believe that you sent me.” (John 11:41–42) Then He called Lazarus out of the tomb and told them to remove the burial bands. God was with his people through their pain and suffering.

Saul was a Jew, educated under Gamaliel a teacher of the law. Saul received permission to kill the Christians that were following Christ. On his way to Damascus, he met the Lord. “On his journey, as he was nearing Damascus, a light from the sky suddenly flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? He said, who are you, Sir? The reply came, I am Jesus whom you are persecuting.” (Acts 9:3-5) Saul then continued his journey to Damascus, then became a believer in Jesus. Saul became Paul. After his conversion, He traveled to many countries spreading the Good News of Jesus. He also wrote many of the letters in the New Testament.

During his ministry, he suffered a lot. St. Paul told the people of his suffering, “Five times at the hands of the Jews I received forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I passed a night and a day on the deep; on a frequent journey in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my own race, dangers from gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers at sea, dangers among false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many sleepless nights, through hunger and thirst, through frequent fasting, through cold and exposure.” (2nd Corinthians 11:24–27). Through all of his sufferings, God was with him.

The first time God spoke the promise of Emmanuel was to Judah’s king Ahaz. The Assyrian forces occupied the land and the king was afraid. God said if you do not stand firm in the faith, you will not stand at all. (Isaiah 7:9) Ahaz refused what God offered him. God then gave his own sign, one that would be fulfilled long after Ahaz. “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a Son, and you will call Him Emmanuel. He will eat curds and honey when He knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right.” (Isaiah 7:14)

In the Gospel of Matthew, we are told of the fulfilled prophecy. It is fulfilled through Mary with the birth of Jesus. The Angel appeared to Mary, a young woman from Nazareth, who was betrothed to a man named Joseph. The Angel appeared to him in a dream telling him that the child Mary was expecting was from God. Joseph then took Mary as his wife. “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord said through the prophet Isaiah; ‘The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a Son, and they will call Him Emmanuel – which means God with us.’” (Matthew 1:20–23)

The New Testament makes it clear, that Jesus God’s Son was the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophesy. He was the long-promised Emmanuel, sent by God to save His people. He came as the mediator between God and man, as our Redeemer, Savior, and Friend.

From the beginning of creation, even today and in the future, God is always with His people. Because of Jesus, Emmanuel, we never have to be alone. We never have to wonder how to please God or worry if our efforts are not enough. We know that Jesus is with us, in us, loves us, and will never leave us.

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