Daily Meditations

The Twenty-Seventh Day of Christmas Advent. Emmanuel, God with Us.

Christmas is about Emmanuel, God with us. The accent is on the immanence of God. We cannot understand the miracle of the immanence unless we understand the glory of the transcendence, and the other way around.

“In the poorest of the poor we see Jesus in distressed disguise.” So said Mother Teresa as she and her nuns ministered to the abandoned babies and dying aged whom they gathered in from the streets of Calcutta. Disguise is central to God’s way of dealing with us human beings. Not because God is playing games with us but because the God who is beyond our knowing makes himself known in the disguise of what we can know. The Christian word for this is revelation, and the ultimate revelation came by incarnation.

Who would have thought that the baby nursing at Mary’s breast is, in truth, the Creator of heaven and earth? Who would have thought that the baby, now a young man, stretched in tortured death upon the cross is, in truth, the King of kings and Lord of lords? Yet some then, and millions upon millions since then, have thought exactly that. God is a master of disguises, in order that we might see. God who is the fullness of Being infiltrated our world of beings in order that we might fully be. Christmas is about incarnation, and incarnation is God’s becoming what he is not, in order that we might become what he is. Thus does God reveal himself.

The pattern of disguise goes on and on. In Matthew 9, Jesus looks out on the crowds and sees that they are “harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” All the people of the world are like an abundant harvest, and he tells us, “Pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into the harvest.” And the Lord does precisely that through the ministry of his Church.

Many say they admire, even worship, Christ but have no use for the church. But Christ did not give us that option, for the church is the body of which Christ is the head. Head and body cannot be separated. “Lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age,” Jesus promised. He is with us, he speaks to us, in and through his church, which means in and through the people who are his church.

To his apostles he said, “He who hears you hears me, and he who rejects you rejects me, and he who rejects me rejects him who sent me.” Sometimes it is hard to recognize Christ in the people who are his church, as it is hard to recognize Christ in the poorest of the poor. In both cases, he appears “in distressed disguise.” That is the way of incarnation that began at Christmas, the way of the transcendent revealed in the immanent, the way of love that stoops so low to lift so high.

~Adapted from Richard John Neuhaus, “First Saturday of Advent,” GOD WITH US:  Rediscovering the Meaning of Christmas, edited by Greg Pennoyer & Gregory Wolfe



Derived from the Latin adventus, the word advent means “coming,” and refers to all the ways that Christ comes into our lives:  past, present, and future.  The Latin word is a transliteration of the Greek epiphaneia, usually used in reference to the appearance of a king or a queen, or (in pagan times) a god or goddess.  This reminds us that even while we are remembering God’s arrival in the flesh of a humble infant, we also prepare for the arrival of the triumphant Messiah, whom prophesy said would be a king.


~From GOD WITH US:  Rediscovering the Meaning of Christmas, “Second Sunday of Advent:  History of the Feast,” edited by Greg Pennoyer & Gregory Wolfe