O Come, O Come, Immanuel (God With Us)

O Emmanuel

The last Evening Prayer of Advent is the context for this final ‘O’ Antiphon, O Emmanuel. When Evening Prayer comes round again, tomorrow, he will come. And that is the hidden message in these seven antiphons. Working backwards from today we have seven titles addressed to the coming baby: Emmanuel, Rex Gentium, Oriens, Clavis David, Radix Jesse, Adonaï, andSapientia. Taking the initial letter of each of these invocations yields the words ‘ero cras’, a couple of Latin words that mean ‘Tomorrow, I will come’.

And the identity of who it is that is coming is to be found in all those titles: the divine Word or Wisdom; the LORD, the ‘I AM’; a shoot sprung from the family tree of Jesse; the successor of David; a Light shining in the darkness; the true ruler of the world. And Emmanuel.

Emmanuel, or God-with-us, was a name used by Isaiah when he tells King Ahaz that the royal house of David will flourish despite the great danger that it faced from Damascus and Samaria. Isaiah foretells that before a child who is still in the womb is able to choose between right and wrong, the kings of Damascus and Samaria will fall, and the threat to Jerusalem will fall with it. Isaiah gives this unborn child the name ‘Immanuel’, a sign of hope in the future and trust in the divine will.

And Matthew, in his proclamation of the good news about Jesus, takes this message out of Isaiah and makes the parallel with Jesus’s birth, seeing it too as a sign of hope and trust in God, and of liberation from oppression and tyranny.

To us, the name Immanuel signifies even more. It tells us of the immanence of God: El in Hebrew, so we can make a pun and say that Immanu-el means the immanence of El — that God, the creator of the universe, lives among us, lives a human life, a humble human life, born to an ordinary family, in a far-off colonial outpost. God is not some remote cosmic being, and God is not some fickle pleasure-seeking divinity who masquerades in human form on occasion. No, this is a God who puts off the divine nature to live within the limits of a human life and a human death. Here the human and the divine mingle in a way that poetry and theology are better at describing than science. And in a day or so’s time we shall be, as it were, witnesses to this mingling, this incarnation, as we celebrate the birth of that baby and ponder its meaning in our hearts.

O come, O come Emmanuel!

Posted by Simon Kershaw on Friday, 23 December 2011
This last of the traditional ‘Great ‘O’s’ of the Advent season, the last of the series posted on ‘Thinking Anglicans’ web-site (by various authors),  normally to be sung at Evensong on Christmas Eve,  spells out the imminence of Christ’s Coming into the world at Christmas-tide.
In a world riven by disasters – both natural and man-made – we long for that time of Peace that the coming of Jesus at the end of time will bring. In the meantime, however, we are given a space in which to reflect upon God’s humility, in taking our humanity upon God’s-self in the process of redeeming us.
The Church, threatened by schism and strife, needs to step back from confrontation on the issues that seem to ever arouse conflict, in order to worship the Word-made-flesh in the Infant Jesus, born of the Holy Spirit in the womb of his blessed Mother, Mary; destined to live and die for God’s plan of Salvation for ALL who look to Him for the fullness of life.
After a night of further quakes in Christchurch, we can thank God that no lives have been lost, and that we are still alive to celebrate with one another on this great Feast of the Church. I will have the great privilege of being part of a Con-celebration of the Midnight Mass here at Saint Michael and All Angels, Christchurch, in the hope and expectation of renewed energy and enthusiasm to preach the Good News of Jesus Christ to ALL.
A Blessed Christmas and a Happy New Year to you who are looking in on this site, and to your loved ones.
Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

About kiwianglo

Retired Anglican priest, living in Christchurch, New Zealand. Ardent supporter of LGBT Community, and blogger on 'Thinking Anglicans UK' site. Theology: liberal, Anglo-Catholic & traditional. regarding each person as a unique expression of Christ, and therefore lovable.
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