Jesus is Emmanuel
We all already follow a wide variety of calendars. Sometimes those calendars conflict with one another. (I am serving this morning at Church while the World Cup final is being played, for example. Two of my favorite calendars are not playing well together…)
Of all the Church seasons, it may be Advent that is most often at odds with our other cultural calendars. While we celebrate Advent, a season of reflection, penitence, and anticipation, our other calendars tend to increasingly fill up with business and festivities.
I think this is most true during the final week of Advent, as the cultural Christmas season reaches the crescendo of its intensity just as the Church season is asking us to persevere in learning to wait, pause, anticipate, and reflect.
So as you finalize your hosting and travel plans, and cross the last few items off of your shopping list, all while squeezing in a holiday party or two, allow the final week of Advent to do its job my taking just a moment each day to pause, pray, read, and reflect.
To help towards that end, Rhythms of Habit will be sending out short reflections on the seven O Antiphons each day for the next week. These antiphons have traditionally been sung along with the Morning and Evening Prayer Psalms in the final week leading up to Christmas. They are known most commonly today as the hymn O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.
The first of those emails will be sent out this evening to subscribers. Be sure to subscribe now, or consider gifting a subscription to a friend, if you would like these daily emails between now and Christmas.
For now, read below for a few notes about the theme of this final week of Advent.
Fourth Week of Advent: Salvation
So far throughout Advent we have heard themes of Judgment, Repentance, and Rejoicing. In the final week of this season, our attention is now turned to the Salvation offered in Jesus, God-with-us. A few notes about this theme are below, as well as the Gospel reading and Collect for this Sunday.
The previous weeks of Advent have instilled in us a deep understanding that we stand in need of salvation. This final week prepares us to recognize Jesus as that salvation.
There are two names given to Jesus in this week’s Gospel passage, and St. Matthew makes sure that his readers understand what each of them mean. Jesus, God saves, is also Emmanuel, God with us. Salvation and relationship go hand in hand.
This theme is also highlighted by a refrain found in Psalm 80, appointed for today:
Restore us, O Lord God of hosts; show the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved.
Turn your face to us, and we shall be saved. The final week of Advent reminds us that in the Incarnation of our Lord, God has taken on a face for the purpose of our salvation.
Our task is to prepare to receive Emmanuel when he arrives. Jesus’ first Advent was in a manger; the collect this week asks God to help us prepare our own hearts to be more hospitable than Bethlehem.
Gospel Reading: Matthew 1:18-25
Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet:
“Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall name him Emmanuel,”
which means, “God is with us.” When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus.
Purify our conscience, Almighty God, by your daily visitation, that your Son Jesus Christ, at his coming, may find in us a mansion prepared for himself; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.