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Advent Reflection: Emmanuel, God's One-Word Letter of Love to the World

By Jennifer Hartline
December 6th, 2010
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

The season beckons us to once again contemplate something truly astonishing.  In the stillness, as the earth is falling asleep for the winter comes a message, spoken with a single word.  Emmanuel. Our gaze should be fixed on Emmanuel.

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Catholic Online) - We hold in our hands during these weeks of Advent the treasure of all treasures.  The season beckons us to once again contemplate something truly astonishing.  It will pass us by if we are not careful.  In the stillness, as the earth is falling asleep for the winter comes a message, spoken with a single word.

Emmanuel

The headlines are shouting doom and despair but today I am not listening.  Our culture is yelling obscenities but today I am not listening. Problems and annoyances are mocking and taunting me, but today I am not giving in.

Not today. Not now. For this moment I am enthralled by Emmanuel.

God is with us. GOD is with us. GOD is with us. Emmanuel. Close your eyes, quiet your heart and hear the word pass through your lips and realize what it means.

This is the thing that makes Christianity unique. This is what makes the Christian faith more than a philosophy or a legend.  It's what makes it the real deal.  This is what renders every other belief in every other god meaningless and a sham.

The Incarnation is the tenderest, most revealing, most daring love letter ever written:

"I love you so much.  I long for you.  You cannot become as I am, so I will become as you are.  You cannot reach Me, so I will inhabit you.  There shall never be anything between us ever again.  Your darkness is now My light.  There is no part of you I refuse.  I withhold nothing from you."

Jesus came. He shed His robe of glory and put on vulnerable flesh. He became one of us, clothed in our skin and bones and blood and sweat and tears. He blessed and restored our humanity by inhabiting it Himself and closed the gap between mortal and immortal. By taking that mortal flesh to the cross to shed His precious and perfect blood, He bridged the impassable chasm between us and our Creator.

Our God has done the unthinkable, the unimaginable, the impossible, the radical, and the incredible. He came, and He remains. He is with us still.

Does a God of anger or arrogance humble Himself and take on the very form of His created ones in order to save them from their own sin? Does a God of contention lay His authority down and subject Himself to the law of the world He created? Does a vengeful God surrender Himself to an unjust death for the sake of those murdering Him?

And still, the world doesn't get it! Still, the reality of Christ's unabashed love for us is not understood. Still, He is with us, unnoticed. Still, we forget the magnitude of what He has done. Still, we are unaware of who He is. 

Rejoice! There is no distance between us and our God. We do not stand outside His door weeping, begging for a glance from His furrowed brow, or a crumb from His table. He has demolished the wall between us and carried us inside His house to enjoy everything He has, including the food of Himself.

Our God alone is worthy of praise and honor and awe and obedience because He has left no measure of separation between us and Himself. Out of love our King became our servant. Love compelled the spotless Lamb to become every wretched, repulsive, disgusting sin in order to free us, cleanse us and make us new. Love compelled the Lord who owes us nothing to pay everything to cancel our debt.

There is none beside Him.  Only Jesus is Emmanuel, God with us. Nothing in this world is more deserving of our attention, especially this season. Whatever else may be going on, our gaze should be fixed on Emmanuel. We should be looking expectantly at that manger with grateful hearts. We not only can rejoice, we must rejoice.

Of course, life will go on, and our obligations must be met. Work must be done and should be done. Important current issues must be dealt with and not ignored. But heaven forbid we blow past Advent in our haste, worry and stress, and fail to open our minds and our hearts each day to the miracle of Emmanuel. 

Heaven forbid we do not read this love letter.  It is an astounding reality our language cannot articulate.  It is the summation of our every need; the complete expression of God's desire.  The Word made flesh.  It's the only word the world needs to hear.

Emmanuel ~ God is with us!  Rejoice!

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Jennifer Hartline is a grateful Catholic, a proud Army wife and mother of four precious children (one in Heaven).  She is a contributing writer for Catholic Online.  She is also a serious chocoholic.  Visit her at My Chocolate Heart.

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