3rd Sunday of Advent (C) 2018

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.”
Why all the rejoicing?
My health isn’t great. I am in pain. I am depressed and life itself is a burden. I am short of money. I lost my job. My family are troublesome. The weather is cold. I have doubts about the love and support of my marriage partner. My car is a wreck. My dog is sick. The Church is mired in controversy. The Conservatives are in power. etc etc. So what is there to rejoice about?
The answer is “The Lord is near.” Immanuel has been revealed to me.
So what???
When we say the Lord is near; when we say Immanuel, what does it mean?
There is much to be said about the Incarnation – salvation, forgiveness, resurrection, eternal life etc. But for me the most important thing about the Incarnation is that God has existentially demonstrated to me that just as God was intimately and personally present to and in Jesus of Nazareth throughout his life, death and burial, so to is God present to and in me throughout my life, from birth to death and burial.
So why can my life sometimes be so difficult?
Now that is a ‘good’ question!!
If you can figure out why the life of Jesus of Nazareth was sometimes so difficult, then you have your answer.
God was not only with and in Jesus of Nazareth but God was actually Jesus of Nazareth. Yet few can claim that their lives were fraught with danger, pain, disappointment and suffering as his was. Yet God was with him. Yet he was God.
One theologian I read said he thought that God was ( is ) so distressed by the pain and suffering we undergo in this life that He himself became a human being and suffered all these pains in solidarity with us as an apology. And not only that, but God by being with and in me actually undergoes in Himself personally these very same distresses and sufferings. Or like the good military officer who always leads his soldiers into action. Who only asks them to do what he himself is willing to do.
To me this is what Immanuel means. To me this is what Christmas means. God is with me.
If this is true. If I truly believe this then there is great reason for rejoicing.
So let us ‘Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again: rejoice! The Lord is near.’