Malachi 3.1-4,23-24; Psalm 24; Luke 1.57-66
“Emmanuel, our king and lawgiver, come and save us, Lord our God.” The new Jerusalem with its restored Temple is filled with God’s glory because God has chosen to live there, to make his home there. [Apocalypse 21.1-3] That new, indestructible city [Hebrews 13.14] is the Church, animated and enlivened by the presence and power of God within it.
For the prophet Isaiah [7.14] Emmanuel is the name of the faithfulness and reliability of Almighty God, a reproach to the pretensions and presumptions of earthly kings. “Devise a plan, it is thwarted; put forward an argument, there is no substance in it, for God is with us” [8.10] the prophet asserted to the mighty Assyrian empire, threatening to invade and conquer Israel. As the Psalmist [45(46).3] put it, “The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.”
Yet the presence of God is a judgement on all that is ungodly and unjust. “Who shall abide the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears?” [Malachi 3.2] “His winnowing-fan is in his hand to clear his threshing-floor and to gather the wheat into his barn; but the chaff he will burn in a fire that will never go out.” [Luke 3.17] “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth” Jesus himself warns: “it is not peace I have come to bring, but a sword.”[Matthew 10.34]
So, on the cusp of our Christmas celebration, we are confronted with the paradox of Advent: that the God of our longing is the God we have again and again disdained. [John 1.11] “Cast out our sin and enter in; be born in us today” we pray as we let down the barriers in our hearts and lives to allow him entrance [Psalm 23(24).7]. “O come to us, abide with us, our Lord Emmanuel.”