“I’ll be home for Christmas, you can count on me…” I’ve had that song playing in my head for a month now. I remember rehearsing that tune with a big band in Germany during an exchange year; I’d make fake sobbing sounds from the trumpet section every time we got to the refrain. I was joking, but it was also sad to sing, an ocean away, “I’ll be home for Christmas, if only in my dreams …”
My mom tells a story about picking up my dad from the airport. They were engaged to be married, and he had been away far too long. When he got to the airport parking lot, she rushed into his arms. His first words were, “Welcome home.” Mom remembers those words, because that’s what it felt like: he had been traveling, but in his arms, she was finally home.
Ever since our first parents left the Garden of Eden, we have carried with us a sad and quiet longing for home. The distance was too great for us to find our way back to God; being home, really Home for Christmas, was possible only in our dreams.
So God did something about it. God bridged the divide from heaven’s side. God refused to stand remotely by and watch our suffering at a distance. That’s the meaning of Emmanuel: Jesus is “God with us.” God! With us! Finally!! Jesus shows up, takes you in his arms, and says, “Welcome Home.”
Matthew 1:18-23 (NIV)
This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit.
Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.
But after he had considered 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 home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”
All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).
come, oh, come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to you, O Israel!