BY: Fr. Gerald Musa.


Scriptural Reference: Isaiah 7:10-14; Romans 1:1-7; Matthew 1:18-24.

There is something beautiful about Christmas Songs. These songs encapsulate the biblical messages about the coming of Christmas and summarise why God stepped into the world to save us. Besides, Christmas songs give a vivid explanation of Christmas in melodious tunes and express the faith of the composers. Furthermore, these songs activate the Christmas mode in our hearts. One of these famous songs, “O come, O come, Immanuel,” composed in the 12th Century, calls on God (Immanuel) to come and ransom God’s people from lonely exile, from Satan’s tyranny, and from the depths of hell. The song further calls on God to come and cheer our spirits and to disperse the gloomy clouds of night and death’s shadows around us. It is a desperate call on God to come and save us. At Christmas, we celebrate the response of God to this desperate cry. God responded by taking human form (incarnation) and coming into the world as a child (nativity).

Christmas is a time when we celebrate the birth of this special child – Jesus (Saviour). At Christmas, we celebrate the physical presence of God who comes to dwell among his people. At various times in history, God manifested himself in different ways. For example, he appeared in a cloudy pillar to the people of Israel and as a wonderful light shrouded in the cloud (Exodus 16:7-10; 13:21-22; 14:19-20). The people experienced his presence in the Tabernacle and it is this presence that the Jewish Rabbis refer to as the Shekinah. The people believed a Messiah will come who will be a manifestation of the presence of God. Zechariah prophesied long before the coming of the Messiah: “I will cause my Shekinah to dwell in the midst of thee” (Zechariah 2:10). In the coming of Jesus, there is a new experience of the Shekinah, the presence, and glory of God: The Word dwelt among us and we experienced his glory (John 1:14).


Through the centuries, there was a desperate need for a savior who will re-direct the course of world history. Two great Greek philosophers who lived many years before the coming of Jesus expressed this deep longing for a saviour. One of them was the prominent Socrates who said: “Oh that someone would arise, man or god, to show us, God.” The other philosopher, Plato, re-echoed a similar sentiment in these words: “Unless a god man comes to us and reveals to us the Supreme Being, there is no help or hope.”

The people of Israel expected a lion (Messiah) from the tribe of Judah who will rescue them from the jaws of their surrounding enemies. In fact, in the 8th Century BC, the Kingdom of Israel was divided into Northern and Southern Kingdoms. The Kingdom of Judah (Southern Kingdom) was under threat by the Northern Kingdom, which joined forces with a superpower Syria. They laid siege on Judah, plundered the land, and captured many people.

The King of Judah Ahaz was terribly and visibly shaken by these sad events and was worried about the future of his kingdom. He planned to ally with another superpower Assyria to withstand the allied forces of Northern Israel and Syria. Isaiah discouraged the King from forming any alliance and encouraged him to trust in the help of God. The prophet also assured the king that his kingdom will not be destroyed and that his dynasty will continue. The King was not willing to listen to the prophet, but the prophet assured him of a sign: “The virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall name him Emmanuel” (Isaiah 7:14). Furthermore, the prophet said to the King, “For before the child shall know to refuse the evil, and choose the good, the land whose two kings you abhor shall be forsaken” (7:16). This Messiah is to come from the house of David, the dynasty of Ahaz. Therefore, Ahaz was told not to worry because the future of his kingdom is bright.

The prophecy of Isaiah to King Ahaz did not happen immediately. The son to be born, which Isaiah spoke about was neither a reference to Hezekiah the son of King Ahaz nor the virgin a reference to the wife of the King. The prophecy was to be fulfilled many years after in the person of Jesus and his blessed mother Mary. The letter to the Romans emphasizes that Jesus is a descendant of David just as the Gospel of Matthew traces the origin of Jesus from Abraham down to Joseph. The Gospel of Matthew also confirms that the birth of Jesus is a fulfillment of what the Lord said long ago through the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call him Emmanuel, which means “God is with us” (cf. Matthew 1:18-24).

Emmanuel is God’s personal intervention into human history. His coming into the world is an answer to a cry that yearns for a redeemer. At Christmas, we celebrate the presence of God in our midst and we celebrate the presence of one another. We celebrate the presence of a God who steps into our darkness; a God who steps into our fears; a God who steps into our troubles. His name is Emmanuel – God with us. He is a God that promises to be with us until the end of time.

Christmas demonstrates the power of presence because it is the story of how God became one of us to be closer to us. He invites us to imitate him by being present in the lives of others. A good example of the power of presence is found in the book of Job. The friends of Job visited when Job was very sick and their loving presence was very significant. “They sat down with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his grief was very great (Job 2:13). Our presence matters a lot in the lives of our beloved families and friends. Our presence matters so much to those who are lonely: those without family and friends and those who are forgotten by society. An anonymous author says: “Somewhere there’s someone who dreams of your smile and finds in your presence that life is worthwhile. So, when you are lonely, remember it’s true: Somebody, somewhere is thinking of you.” At Christmas, we remember that Jesus gives us the gift of his physical presence. And so, your presence is the greatest present you can offer to your beloved ones and to those who have no one to talk to.



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