The One Word

Advertisers will often use a single word to capture the feeling, mood, or idea they are trying to convey in their messages. That is especially true during the Christmas season. For many years Macy’s highlighted the single word “believe” in its holiday advertising.

Other companies use other words. For example, they might emphasize a word such as joy, hope, love, share, peace, giving, wondrous, or magical. A single well-chosen word can be more effective than a string of words that are quickly forgotten.

If we had to choose just one word to convey the spiritual meaning of the Christmas season, we might pick the word that appears in this Sunday’s First Reading (Isaiah 7:10-14) and is repeated in the Gospel (Matthew 1:18-24). That word is Emmanuel.

In the First Reading, the prophet Isaiah tells King Ahaz, who doubts God’s protection, that God would give an unmistakable sign of his providential care. “The virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall name him Emmanuel.”

Then in the Gospel, Matthew relates how Joseph comes to know that Mary’s pregnancy is not the result of her unfaithfulness but the result of the miraculous intervention of the Holy Spirit.

This happens, Matthew tells us, to fulfill the prophecy found in the reading from Isaiah. In quoting that prophecy, the word Emmanuel appears again.

The word Emmanuel is the ideal single word to express what we celebrate this Advent and Christmas Season. The word means, God is with us.

As Christians we believe that the God of infinite power and majesty, the Creator and Sustainer of the entire universe, decided to take on flesh and come among his creatures.

God did not simply want to tell us about himself, God wanted to reveal himself in a human face.

God became one of us that first Christmas and walked among us. Amazingly God continues to walk among us through Word and Sacrament and through the members of his Church. God is involved with our lives and with this world. That wondrous mystery is captured in the word Emmanuel.

God is not above us. God is not beyond us. God is not far from us. God is not removed from us. No, God is with us. God is Emmanuel. That one word proclaims what we celebrate at Christmas and it gives us the reason for our joy. EMMANUEL!

© 2019 Rev. Thomas B. Iwanowski