In the fourth Advent Antiphon for December 20th, we discover a God who is never far away
O Emmanuel, our king and lawgiver, come and save us, Lord our God.
Brought up on the old black and white movies (a scarcity these days with multiple channels competing with the production of new and shiny box sets and movies) as a child we’d feast on the likes of Cary Grant and Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra and Ginger Rogers, James Stewart and Jack Lemon, to name just a few.
Lots of movies stand out, like Some like it Hot and White Christmas and Bringing up Baby and the memorable ‘Roman Holiday.’ Fed up of the palace restrictions, the princess, played by Audrey Hepburn, escapes into the streets of Rome, experiencing things for the first time, courting (almost) a young journalist (Gregory Peck) before she returns to her royal duties.
Only a few people in Rome recognised the royal presence. Everyone was oblivious to who she was as she danced and laughed and fell in love. They just didn’t know that royalty was among them.
One of the beautiful titles given to Jesus is ‘Emmanuel’, a name which means ‘God is with us.’ Christ’s birth in Bethlehem heralds a new age, a new time, when God becomes involved, in a very human and tangible way, in the world he has created. He walks among us, experiences everything it means to be a human-being, except sin, as St Paul reminds us.
After his Resurrection as he ascends to Heaven, Jesus tells his Apostles, “I will be with you always, to the end of time.” The Incarnation isn’t simply a past event. Jesus has been and will always be present among us. He gives us signs of his presence, gifts through which we feel his saving touch both within and without the life of the church.
His grace is not restricted, and yet he has chosen to make his presence known in many ways. The Eucharist is such an important part of our life together. We are commanded to “Do this in remembrance” of him. It is one of the most beautiful ways in which we receive the presence of Jesus.
We are what we eat. We become what we celebrate. The Church has been called an extension of the Incarnation, the continuing presence of Jesus in the world, the Body of Christ.
Recognising Jesus in ‘the breaking of the bread’ means that we must recognise him too in the brokenness of the world, in the poor and those outside the walls of the church. As the Body of Christ, we are called to be and become his presence in the world but we also meet him in those whom we serve.
‘You will have the poor with you always,’ said Jesus. So let’s eagerly receive Jesus who comes to us in the Eucharist, and be his presence to others, and let us always be alert to him in the lives of those we are called to serve.
‘O Emmanuel, our king and lawgiver, come and save us, Lord our God.’